Background Curcumin is known to possess many anti-tumor properties such as inhibition of tumor growth and induction of apotosis. However, limited bioavailability of curcumin prevents its clinical application. A synthesized curcumin analog, 1,5-diaryl-3-oxo-1,4-pentadiene such as GO-Y030, has the improved anti-tumor potential in vitro as well as in mouse model of colorectal carcinogenesis. Results These compounds were divided into two groups; one is the higher anti-proliferative group, in which 79.7% of 1,5-diaryl-3-oxo-1,4-pentadienes were clustered. One of the 1,5-diaryl-3-oxo-1,4-pentadiene analogs, GO-Y078 has the most enhanced growth inhibition, and its solubility was improved, compared with curcumin. GO-Y078 inhibits NF-κB transactivation, as well as expression of TP53 and DR5 more effectively than curcumin. In a mouse model, GO-Y078 presented 1.4 fold more survival elongation that was not achieved by curcumin and GO-Y030. Conclusions The 1,5-diaryl-3-oxo-1,4-pentadiene analogs can yield good lead compounds for cancer chemotherapy, to overcome low bioavailability of curcumin.