Research Papers:

Cancer-selective cytotoxic Ca2+ overload in acute myeloid leukemia cells and attenuation of disease progression in mice by synergistically acting polyphenols curcumin and carnosic acid

Stella Pesakhov, Matan Nachliely, Zeev Barvish, Nasma Aqaqe, Bar Schwartzman, Elena Voronov, Yoav Sharoni, George P. Studzinski, Daniel Fishman and Michael Danilenko _

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:31847-31861. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.7240

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Stella Pesakhov1, Matan Nachliely1, Zeev Barvish1,5, Nasma Aqaqe1,6, Bar Schwartzman1, Elena Voronov2, Yoav Sharoni1, George P. Studzinski3, Daniel Fishman4, Michael Danilenko1

1Department of Clinical Biochemistry and Pharmacology, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva 84105, Israel

2The Shraga Segal Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva 84105, Israel

3Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School, Newark, NJ 07103, USA

4Department of Physiology and Cell Biology, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva 84105, Israel

5Permanent address: Blood Bank Institute, Soroka University Medical Center, Beer Sheva 85025, Israel

6Permanent address: Department of Pathology, Sackler Faculty of Medicine Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv 69978, Israel

Correspondence to:

Michael Danilenko, email: [email protected]

Keywords: acute myeloid leukemia, intracellular calcium, curcumin, carnosic acid, apoptosis

Received: August 23, 2015     Accepted: January 19, 2016     Published: February 12, 2016


Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is an aggressive hematologic malignancy characterized by extremely heterogeneous molecular and biologic abnormalities that hamper the development of effective targeted treatment modalities. While AML cells are highly sensitive to cytotoxic Ca2+ overload, the feasibility of Ca2+- targeted therapy of this disease remains unclear. Here, we show that apoptotic response of AML cells to the synergistically acting polyphenols curcumin (CUR) and carnosic acid (CA), combined at low, non-cytotoxic doses of each compound was mediated solely by disruption of cellular Ca2+ homeostasis. Specifically, activation of caspase cascade in CUR+CA-treated AML cells resulted from sustained elevation of cytosolic Ca2+ (Ca2+cyt) and was not preceded by endoplasmic reticulum stress or mitochondrial damage. The CUR+CA-induced Ca2+cyt rise did not involve excessive influx of extracellular Ca2+ but, rather, occurred due to massive Ca2+ release from intracellular stores concomitant with inhibition of Ca2+cyt extrusion through the plasma membrane. Notably, the CUR+CA combination did not alter Ca2+ homeostasis and viability in non-neoplastic hematopoietic cells, suggesting its cancer-selective action. Most importantly, co-administration of CUR and CA to AML-bearing mice markedly attenuated disease progression in two animal models. Collectively, our results provide the mechanistic and translational basis for further characterization of this combination as a prototype of novel Ca2+-targeted pharmacological tools for the treatment of AML.

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