Objective: Uterine leiomyosarcoma (LMS) has an unfavorable response to standard chemotherapy. A natural occurring compound, curcumin, has been shown to have inhibitory effects on cancers. We previously demonstrated that curcumin reduced uterine LMS cell proliferation by targeting the AKT-mTOR pathway and activating apoptosis. To further explore the anticancer effect of curcumin, we investigated the efficacy of curcumin on autophagy in LMS cells.
Methods: Cell proliferation in human uterine LMS cell lines, SKN and SK-UT-1, was assessed after exposure to rapamycin or curcumin. Autophagy was detected by Western blotting for light chain 3 and sequestosome 1 (SQSTM1/p62) expression. Apoptosis was confirmed by Western blotting for cleaved poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP).
Results: Both rapamycin and curcumin potently inhibited SKN and SK-UT-1 cell proliferation in a dose-dependent manner. Curcumin induced autophagy and apoptosis in SKN and SK-UT-1 cells, whereas rapamycin, a specific mTOR inhibitor, did not. Curcumin increased extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 activity in both SKN and SK-UT-1 cells, whereas PD98059, an MEK1 inhibitor, inhibited both the extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 pathway and curcumin-induced autophagy.
Conclusions: These experimental findings suggest that curcumin is a potent inhibitor of cell proliferation in uterine LMS and provide new insights about ongoing signaling events leading to the possible development of a new therapeutic agent.