The chemopreventive polyphenol curcumin prevents hematogenous breast cancer metastases in immunodeficient mice

Beatrice E. Bachmeier, Andreas G. Nerlich, Cristina M. Iancu, Michele Cilli, Erwin Schleicher, Roberta Vené, Raffaella Dell'Eva, Marianne Jochum, Adriana Albini, Ulrich Pfeffer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Dissemination of metastatic cells probably occurs long before diagnosis of the primary tumor. Metastasis during early phases of carcinogenesis in high risk patients is therefore a potential prevention target. The plant polyphenol Curcumin has been proposed for dietary prevention of cancer. We therefore examined its effects on the human breast cancer cell line MDA-MB-231 in vitroand in a mouse metastasis model. Curcumin strongly induces apoptosis in MDA-MB-231 cells in correlation with reduced activation of the survival pathway NFκB, as a consequence of diminished IκB and p65 phosphorylation. Curcumin also reduces the expression of major matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) due to reduced NFκ B activity and transcriptional downregulation of AP-1. NFκ B/p65 silencing is sufficient to downregulate c-jun and MMP expression. Reduced NFκ B/AP-1 activity and MMP expression lead to diminished invasion through a reconstituted basement membrane and to a significantly lower number of lung metastases in immunodeficient mice after intercardiac injection of 231 cells (p=0.0035). 68% of Curcumin treated but only 17% of untreated animals showed no or very few lung metastases, most likely as a consequence of down-regulation of NFκ B/AP-1 dependent MMP expression and direct apoptotic effects on circulating tumor cells but not on established metastases. Dietary chemoprevention of metastases appears therefore feasible.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-152
Number of pages16
JournalCellular Physiology and Biochemistry
Issue number1-4
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • Apoptosis
  • Breast Cancer
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase
  • Metastasis in vivo
  • NFκB

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cell Biology


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