Overexpression of oncoprotein Aurora-A increases drug resistance and promotes lung metastasis of breast cancer cells. Curcumin is an active anticancer compound in turmeric and curry. Here we observed that Aurora-A protein and kinase activity were reduced in curcumin-treated human breast chemoresistant nonmetastatic MCF-7 and highly metastatic cancer MDA-MB-231 cells. Curcumin acts in a similar manner to Aurora-A small interfering RNA (siRNA), resulting in monopolar spindle formation, S and G2/M arrest, and cell division reduction. Ectopic Aurora-A extinguished the curcumin effects. The anticancer effects of curcumin were enhanced by Aurora-A siRNA and produced additivity and synergism effects in cell division and monopolar phenotype, respectively. Combination treatment with curcumin overrode the chemoresistance to four Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved anticancer drugs (ixabepilone, cisplatin, vinorelbine, or everolimus) in MDA-MB-231 cells, which was characterized by a decrease in cell viability and the occurrence of an additivity or synergy effect. Ectopic expression of Aurora-A attenuated curcumin-enhanced chemosensitivity to these four tested drugs. A similar benefit of curcumin was observed in MCF-7 cells treated with ixabepilone, the primary systemic therapy to patients with invasive breast cancer (stages IIA-IIIB) before surgery. Antagonism effect was observed when MCF-7 cells were treated with curcumin plus cisplatin, vinorelbine or everolimus. Curcumin-induced enhancement in chemosensitivity was paralleled by significant increases (additivity or synergy effect) in apoptosis and cell cycle arrest at S and G2/M phases, the consequences of Aurora-A inhibition. These results suggest that a combination of curcumin with FDA-approved anticancer drugs warrants further assessment with a view to developing a novel clinical treatment for breast cancer.
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