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The novel curcumin analog FLLL32 decreases STAT3 DNA binding activity and expression, and induces apoptosis in osteosarcoma cell lines

Stacey L Fossey1, Misty D Bear1, Jiayuh Lin23, Chenglong Li4, Eric B Schwartz4, Pui-Kai Li34, James R Fuchs4, Joelle Fenger5, William C Kisseberth5 and Cheryl A London13*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Veterinary Biosciences, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA

2 Department of Pediatrics, College of Medicine, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43205, USA

3 Comprehensive Cancer Center, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA

4 Division of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy, College of Pharmacy, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA

5 Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA

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BMC Cancer 2011, 11:112  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-11-112

Published: 28 March 2011



Curcumin is a naturally occurring phenolic compound shown to have a wide variety of antitumor activities; however, it does not attain sufficient blood levels to do so when ingested. Using structure-based design, a novel compound, FLLL32, was generated from curcumin. FLLL32 possesses superior biochemical properties and more specifically targets STAT3, a transcription factor important in tumor cell survival, proliferation, metastasis, and chemotherapy resistance. In our previous work, we found that several canine and human osteosarcoma (OSA) cell lines, but not normal osteoblasts, exhibit constitutive phosphorylation of STAT3. Compared to curcumin, we hypothesized that FLLL32 would be more efficient at inhibiting STAT3 function in OSA cells and that this would result in enhanced downregulation of STAT3 transcriptional targets and subsequent death of OSA cells.


Human and canine OSA cells were treated with vehicle, curcumin, or FLLL32 and the effects on proliferation (CyQUANT®), apoptosis (SensoLyte® Homogeneous AMC Caspase- 3/7 Assay kit, western blotting), STAT3 DNA binding (EMSA), and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), survivin, and matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP2) expression (RT-PCR, western blotting) were measured. STAT3 expression was measured by RT-PCR, qRT- PCR, and western blotting.


Our data showed that FLLL32 decreased STAT3 DNA binding by EMSA. FLLL32 promoted loss of cell proliferation at lower concentrations than curcumin leading to caspase-3- dependent apoptosis, as evidenced by PARP cleavage and increased caspase 3/7 activity; this could be inhibited by treatment with the pan-caspase inhibitor Z-VAD-FMK. Treatment of OSA cells with FLLL32 decreased expression of survivin, VEGF, and MMP2 at both mRNA and protein levels with concurrent decreases in phosphorylated and total STAT3; this loss of total STAT3 occurred, in part, via the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway.


These data demonstrate that the novel curcumin analog FLLL32 has biologic activity against OSA cell lines through inhibition of STAT3 function and expression. Future work with FLLL32 will define the therapeutic potential of this compound in vivo.