Curcumin inhibits prosurvival pathways in chronic lymphocytic leukemia B cells and may overcome their stromal protection in combination with EGCG.
Clin Nephrol. 1975;3(5):195-203. PMID: 19228728
PURPOSE: Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is incurable with current chemotherapy treatments. Curcumin (diferuloylmethane), an active ingredient in the spice turmeric, inhibits tumor metastasis, invasion, and angiogenesis in tumor cell lines. We evaluated the effects of curcumin on the viability of primary CLL B cells and its ability to overcome stromal mediated protection. EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: The in vitro effect of curcumin on primary CLL B cells was evaluated using fluorescence activated cell sorter analysis and Western blotting. For some experiments, CLL B cells were cocultured with human stromal cells to evaluate the effects of curcumin on leukemia cells cultured in their microenvironment. Finally, the effect of curcumin in combination with the green tea extract epigallocatechin-3 gallate (EGCG) was evaluated. RESULTS: Curcumin induced apoptosis in CLL B cells in a dose-dependent (5-20 micromol/L) manner and inhibited constitutively active prosurvival pathways, including signal transducers and activators of transcription 3 (STAT3), AKT, and nuclear factor kappaB. Moreover, curcumin suppressed expression of the anti-apoptotic proteins Mcl-1 and X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis protein (XIAP), and up-regulated the pro-apoptotic protein BIM. Coculture of CLL B cells with stromal cells resulted in elevated levels of STAT3, increased expression of Mcl-1 and XIAP, and decreased sensitivity to curcumin. When curcumin was administered simultaneously with EGCG, antagonism was observed for most patient samples. In contrast, sequential administration of these agents led to substantial increases in CLL B-cell death and could overcome stromal protection. CONCLUSIONS: Curcumin treatment was able to overcome stromal protection of CLL B cells on in vitro testing and to synergize with EGCG when administered in a sequential fashion. Additional evaluation of curcumin as a potential therapeutic agent for treatment of CLL seems warranted.