Curcumin: A potential radio-enhancer in head and neck cancer

Avi Khafif, Shahar Lev-Ari, Akiva Vexler, Itai Barnea, Alex Starr, Vicki Karaush, Sasha Haif, Rami Ben-Yosef*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives/Hypothesis: To investigate whether curcumin enhances the cytotoxic effect of radiotherapy in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). Methods: HNSCC cell lines SCC-1, SCC-9, KB, as well as A431 cell line were treated with curcumin, irradiation, or their combination. Cell viability was evaluated by XTT assay. Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), epithelial growth factor receptor (EGFR), and p-Erk1/2 were measured by Western blot analysis. CD-1 athymic nude mice with orthotopic implanted SCC-1 cells, were treated with control diet, curcumin containing diet, local single-dose radiation, or combination. Results: Curcumin (IC50 range, 15-22 lM) and radiation inhibited cell viability in all cell lines were tested. The combination of curcumin and radiation resulted in additive effect. Curcumin decreased COX-2 expression and inhibited phosphorylation of EGFR in SCC-1 cells. In tumor-bearing mice the combination regimen showed a decrease in both tumor weight (25%, P = .09) and tumor size (15%, P = .23) compared to the nontreated mice. Conclusions: Curcumin inhibited HNSCC cell growth and augmented the effect of radiation in vitro and in vivo. A possible mechanism is inhibition of COX-2 expression and EGFR phosphorylation. Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, curcumin, radiation, cyclooxygenase-2, epithelial growth factor receptor.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2019-2026
Number of pages8
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Curcumin
  • Cyclooxygenase-2
  • Epithelial growth factor receptor
  • Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma
  • Radiation


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