The microtubule-targeting antineoplastic agent, paclitaxel, is highly efficacious against a wide spectrum of human cancers. However, dose-limiting toxicity and development of drug resistance limit its clinical application. Development of novel strategies that overcome chemoresistance and sensitize cancer cells to paclitaxel can enhance the therapeutic effect of this drug. We have previously shown that curcumin, a natural polyphenol, enhances paclitaxel-induced cytotoxicity in vitro through downregulation of nuclear factor (NF)-B and Akt pathways. This study was undertaken to determine whether this synergism exists in vivo and to elucidate the underlying molecular mechanisms. Mouse cervical multistage squamous cell carcinoma model using 3-methylcholanthrene (3-MC) and a xenograft model of human cervical cancer in nonobese diabetic severe combined immunodeficient (NOD-SCID) mice using HeLa cells were used to evaluate the synergism. We observed that the combined treatment of curcumin and paclitaxel induced a synergestic reduction in the tumor incidence as well as tumor volume of animals compared with the individual treatments of paclitaxel or curcumin, although curcumin alone could not induce any significant effect at the concentration used. The results suggest that a suboptimal concentration of curcumin augments the antitumor action of paclitaxel by downregulating the activation and downstream signaling of antiapoptotic factors and survival signals such as NF-B, Akt and mitogen-activated protein kinases that have significant roles in proliferation, survival, angiogenesis and metastasis. This study revealed for the first time that 3-MC-induced tumorigenesis in mice is associated with a strong constitutive activation of NF-B activity. Furthermore, we also observed that pre-exposure of carcinoma cells isolated from 3-MC-induced tumors to curcumin potentiates paclitaxel-induced apoptosis. Overall, the findings of this preclinical study provide a strong rationale for the validation of this combination through clinical trials. As curcumin could effectively downregulate all these survival signals induced by paclitaxel, we suggest it as a potent chemosensitizer to improve the therapeutic index of paclitaxel.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India. We thank Dr Marie Lue Antony, Dr TR Santhoshkumar and Arun Kumar T Thulasidasan for technical advice and help and Dr Thara Somanathan for verifying the histopathology data.
- chemical carcinogenesis
- natural products
- survival factors
- xenograft tumors