Evidence that curcumin suppresses the growth of malignant gliomas in vitro and in vivo through induction of autophagy: role of Akt and extracellular signal-regulated kinase signaling pathways.

Mol Pharmacol. 2007;72(1):29-39


Malignant glioma is the most common primary malignant tumor in the brain. The median survival time of patients with glioblastoma multiforme, the most malignant type of malignant glioma, is less than a year from diagnosis, in spite of combined approach of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Hence, there is an urgent need to develop new therapeutic strategies.

Growing evidence show that natural products like Curcumin has potent anticancer effect both in vitro and in vivo on a variety of cancer cell types, such as leukemia, breast cancer, prostate cancer and pancreatic cancer. However, the efficacy of curcumin for malignant glioma cells in vitro and in vivo is yet be ascertained.



To evaluate the anticancer effect of Curcumin on U87-MG and U373-MG human malignant glioma cells, signal pathways of Curcumin-induced autophagy and role of the pathways in cell death.


Study Design:

Various assays were conducted on U87-MG and U373-MG human malignant glioma cells to investigate the effect of Curcumin on cell viability, cell cycle, apoptosis, induction of autophagy and NF-ĸB activation.



  • Various concentrations of Curcumin demonstrated decreased cell viability in a dose-dependent manner in both cell lines
  • Electron microscopic analysis showed that treating both cell lines with of 40µM Curcumin resulted in increased autophagic vacuoles containing cellular material or membranous structures compared with untreated control cells
  • Curcumin effectively inhibited phosphorylated Akt pathway, whereas ERK pathway was activated in both cell lines



Overall, it was concluded from the study results that curcumin can be a new anticancer agent for malignant glioma because of its prominent effect and its new anticancer mechanism of inducing autophagy.

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