Curcumin (diferuloylmethane), is a natural chemopreventive agent known to inhibit the proliferation of several cancer cell lines. It has been previously demonstrated that curcumin is a potent inhibitor of EGF-receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase, but its inhibitive effect on p21-activated kinase 1 (PAK1), a downstream protein of EGFR, has not been defined. In this paper we found that curcumin repressed the expression of HER2 and inhibited the kinase activity of PAK1 without affecting its expression. Silencing HER2 in gastric cancer cells showed that even if PAK1 activity was transiently strengthened by EGF, curcumin still had a strong inhibitive effect. It should be emphasized that kinase assay in vitro showed that curcumin could act as an ATP-competitive inhibitor, which was supported by computer-aided molecular modeling. Curcumin also downregulated the mRNA and the protein expression of cyclin D1 and suppressed transition of the cells from G(1) to S phase. Therefore, curcumin inhibited the proliferation and invasion of gastric cancer cells. Overall, these results provided novel insights into the mechanisms of curcumin inhibition of gastric cancer cell growth and potential therapeutic strategies for gastric cancer.