The combination of curcumin and doxorubicin shows a selective cytotoxic effect on acute myeloid leukaemia cell line


Session type:

Noor Hasan1,Noor Hasan1,Helen Roberts1,Lucy Ghali1,Sandra Appiah1
1Middlesex University



Chemotherapy is the frontline treatment for acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), however, due to clinical limitations, including cardiotoxicity and drug resistance, drug-free survival rarely goes beyond 5 years; therefore natural products are increasingly being studied as potential therapeutic agents. Curcuma longa (curcumin), a component of turmeric, has shown to induce anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This study investigated the effect of curcumin and doxorubicin individually and as combinations on healthy human monocyte cells and AML (MOLM13) cell line.


Cell viability was measured using CyQuant assay (binds to nucleic acids of live cells), and the appropriate compound concentrations were selected for drug combination studies for 24 h and 48 h incubation periods. The effect of single and combination incubations on Bcl-2 (anti-apoptotic) protein was also investigated using Western blot.


Neither doxorubicin (0.1-0.5 µM) nor curcumin (5-15 µM) incubation of normal monocyte cells showed any significant decrease in cell viability compared to negative control at 24 h and 48 h. AML cells incubated with either doxorubicin or curcumin showed the compounds act in a dose and time-dependent manner. This demonstrates curcumin to possess selective cytotoxic properties against the MOLM13 cell line and not the normal monocyte cells. The combination of doxorubicin (0.2 and 0.5 µM) with curcumin (10µM) also decreased the cell viability more pronouncedly in MOLM13 compared to normal monocytes. Curcumin (10 µM) and doxorubicin (0.2 µM) combination showed a 1.4 fold reduction in Bcl-2 protein levels (p=0.002), as compared to doxorubicin 0.2 µM alone.


It is thought that the combination of curcumin with doxorubicin has the potential to increase the therapeutic effect of chemotherapy while also reducing its cytotoxicity.