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Aug 2010 Breast cancer research and treatment

Targeting breast stem cells with the cancer preventive compounds curcumin and piperine.


Kakarala M, Brenner DE, Korkaya H, Cheng C, Tazi K, Ginestier C, Dontu G, Wicha MS


The cancer stem cell hypothesis asserts that malignancies arise in tissue stem and/or progenitor cells through the dysregulation or acquisition of self-renewal. In order to determine whether the dietary polyphenols, curcumin, and piperine are able to modulate the self-renewal of normal and malignant breast stem cells, we examined the effects of these compounds on mammosphere formation, expression of the breast stem cell marker aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH), and Wnt signaling. Mammosphere formation assays were performed after curcumin, piperine, and control treatment in unsorted normal breast epithelial cells and normal stem and early progenitor cells, selected by ALDH positivity. Wnt signaling was examined using a Topflash assay. Both curcumin and piperine inhibited mammosphere formation, serial passaging, and percent of ALDH+ cells by 50% at 5 microM and completely at 10 microM concentration in normal and malignant breast cells. There was no effect on cellular differentiation. Wnt signaling was inhibited by both curcumin and piperine by 50% at 5 microM and completely at 10 microM. Curcumin and piperine separately, and in combination, inhibit breast stem cell self-renewal but do not cause toxicity to differentiated cells. These compounds could be potential cancer preventive agents. Mammosphere formation assays may be a quantifiable biomarker to assess cancer preventive agent efficacy and Wnt signaling assessment can be a mechanistic biomarker for use in human clinical trials.

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