The anticancer effect of curcumin has been widely reported. However, whether curcumin can enhance the radiosensitivity of human oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) remains to be elucidated. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the efficacy of curcumin combined with radiation against OSCC. SAS cells were transfected with the luciferase gene (luc) and named SAS/luc. NF-κB/DNA binding activity, the surviving fraction and NF-κB-regulated effector protein expression were determined by electrophoretic mobility shift assay, clonogenic survival assay and western blotting, respectively. The therapeutic efficacy was evaluated in SAS/luc tumor-bearing mice by caliper measurement and bioluminescence imaging. Curcumin enhanced SAS/luc radiosensitivity through the inhibition of radiation-induced NF-κB activity and expression of effector proteins both in vitro and in vivo. With 4 Gy or greater radiation doses, synergistic effects of curcumin were observed. The combination group (curcumin plus radiation) had significantly better tumor control compared with that of curcumin or radiation alone. No significant body weight change of mice was found throughout the entire study. In conclusion, curcumin is a radiosensitizer against OSCC with negligible toxicity.
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