Int J Biol Sci 2019; 15(6):1200-1214. doi:10.7150/ijbs.33710 This issue


Potential Mechanisms of Action of Curcumin for Cancer Prevention: Focus on Cellular Signaling Pathways and miRNAs

Man Wang1✉, Shuai Jiang2, Li Zhou3, Fei Yu1, Han Ding1, Peifeng Li1, Meng Zhou4✉, Kun Wang1✉

1. Institute for Translational Medicine, Medical College of Qingdao University, Dengzhou Road 38, Qingdao 266021, China
2. Key Laboratory of Experimental Marine Biology, Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Qingdao 266071, China
3. Animal Biosafety Level III Laboratory at the Center for Animal Experiment, Wuhan University School of Medicine, Wuhan 430071, China
4. Department of Dermatology, Qilu Hospital of Shandong University (Qingdao), Qingdao 266000, China

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Wang M, Jiang S, Zhou L, Yu F, Ding H, Li P, Zhou M, Wang K. Potential Mechanisms of Action of Curcumin for Cancer Prevention: Focus on Cellular Signaling Pathways and miRNAs. Int J Biol Sci 2019; 15(6):1200-1214. doi:10.7150/ijbs.33710. Available from

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Graphic abstract

Despite significant progressions in treatment modalities over the last decade, either cancer incidence or mortality is continuously on the rise throughout the world. Current anticancer agents display limited efficacy, accompanied by severe side effects. In order to improve therapeutic outcomes in patients with cancer, it is crucial to identify novel, highly efficacious pharmacological agents. Curcumin, a hydrophobic polyphenol extracted from turmeric, has gained increasing attention due to its powerful anticancer properties. Curcumin can inhibit the growth, invasion and metastasis of various cancers. The anticancer mechanisms of curcumin have been extensively studied. The anticancer effects of curcumin are mainly mediated through its regulation of multiple cellular signaling pathways, including Wnt/β-catenin, PI3K/Akt, JAK/STAT, MAPK, p53 and NF-ĸB signaling pathways. Moreover, curcumin also orchestrates the expression and activity of oncogenic and tumor-suppressive miRNAs. In this review, we summarized the regulation of these signaling pathways by curcumin in different cancers. We also discussed the modulatory function of curcumin in the downregulation of oncogenic miRNAs and the upregulation of tumor-suppressive miRNAs. An in-depth understanding of the anticancer mechanisms of curcumin will be helpful for developing this promising compound as a therapeutic agent in clinical management of cancer.

Keywords: curcumin, cancer, signaling pathways, miRNAs