Curcumin (diferuloylmethane), one of the main components of the Indian spice turmeric, is known to possess potent anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. In addition, curcumin has also been shown to have in vitro and in vivo efficacy against a variety of malignancies. In the current study we examined the cytotoxic effect of curcumin on seven osteosarcoma (OS) cell lines with varying degrees of in vivo metastatic potential. Curcumin inhibited the growth of all OS cell lines tested with half-maximal inhibitory concentration values ranging from 14.4 to 24.6 microM. Growth inhibition was associated with a dose dependent increase in the number of apoptotic cells and accumulation of cells in the G(2)/M phase of the cell cycle. Curcumin treatment also resulted in cleavage of caspase-3 and poly adenosine diphosphate-ribose polymerase. Moreover, curcumin treatment was associated with an increase in cellular levels of the apoptotic B-cell leukemia/lymphoma 2 (Bcl-2)-associated X protein and a decrease in cellular content of the anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-2. In addition, curcumin treatment also inhibited the migration of OS cell lines. These data indicate that the potent cytotoxic activity of curcumin on OS cell lines is mediated by induction of apoptotic processes. Thus, curcumin has potential to be a novel OS chemotherapeutic agent.