Inhibition of skin tumor promotion by TPA using a combination of topically applied ursolic acid and curcumin

Lisa Tremmel, Okkyung Rho, Thomas J. Slaga, John DiGiovanni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Prevention remains an important strategy to reduce the burden of cancer. One approach to prevent cancer is the use of phytochemicals in various combinations as safe and effective cancer preventative agents. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of the combination of ursolic acid (UA) and curcumin (Curc) for potential combinatorial inhibition of skin tumor promotion using the mouse two-stage skin carcinogenesis model. In short-term experiments, the combination of UA + Curc given topically prior to 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA) significantly inhibited activation of epidermal EGFR, p70S6K, NF-κB p50, Src, c-Jun, Rb, and IκBα. Levels of c-Fos, c-Jun, and Cox-2 were also significantly reduced by the combination compared to the TPA treated group. The alterations in these signaling pathways by the combination of UA + Curc were associated with decreased epidermal proliferation as assessed by measuring BrdU incorporation. Significant effects were also seen with the combination on epidermal inflammatory gene expression and dermal inflammation, with the greatest effects on expression of IL-1β, IL-6, IL-22, and CXCL2. Furthermore, results from skin tumor experiments demonstrated that the combination of UA + Curc given topically significantly inhibited mouse skin tumor promotion by TPA to a greater extent than the individual compounds given alone. The greatest effects were seen on tumor free survival, tumor size, and tumor weight, although tumor incidence and multiplicity were also further reduced by the combination. These results demonstrate the potential cancer chemopreventive activity and mechanism(s) for the combination of UA + Curc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-195
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Carcinogenesis
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2019


  • chemoprevention
  • combination
  • tumor promotion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cancer Research


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