Curcumin and its chalcone derivatives inhibit the growth of human cancer cells. It is reported that replacement of two OH groups in curcumin with less polar groups like methoxy increases its anti-proliferative activity. In this study, we explored benzylidine cyclohexanone derivatives with non-polar groups, to see if they possess increased anti-cancer activity. Novel 2,6-bis benzylidine cyclohexanone analogues of curcumin were synthesized, and their inhibitory effects on gastric adenocarcinoma (AGS) and esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (KYSE30) cancer cells were studied using an MTT assay. Cell apoptosis was detected by EB/AO staining, and cell cycle was analyzed by flow cytometry. Real-time PCR was performed for gene expression analysis. All synthesized analogues were cytotoxic toward gastric and esophageal cancer cells and showed lower IC50 values than curcumin. Treatment with 2,6-Bis-(3-methoxy-4-propoxy-benzylidene)-cyclohexanone (BM2) was 17 times more toxic than curcumin after 48 h incubation. All novel compounds were more effective than curcumin in apoptosis induction and cell cycle arrest at G1 phase. These results suggest that less polar analogues of curcumin have potent cytotoxicity in vitro. However, they need to be investigated further, especially with animal tumor models, to confirm their chemotherapeutic activity in vivo.

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Published in Scientific Reports, v. 7, article no. 2559, p. 1-9.

© The Author(s) 2017

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This study was supported by a thesis grant for MD students from the Ardabil University of Medical Sciences.

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Supplementary information accompanies this paper at doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-02666-4

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Supplementary Information