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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 Jul 21;95(15):8806-11.

Ligands for peroxisome proliferator-activated receptorgamma and retinoic acid receptor inhibit growth and induce apoptosis of human breast cancer cells in vitro and in BNX mice.

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  • 1Division of Hematology-Oncology, University of California Los Angeles School of Medicine, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA 90048-0750, USA.


Induction of differentiation and apoptosis in cancer cells through ligands of nuclear hormone receptors (NHRs) is a novel and promising approach to cancer therapy. All-trans-retinoic acid (ATRA), an RA receptor-specific NHR ligand, is now used for selective cancers. The NHR, peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARgamma) is expressed in breast cancer cells. Activation of PPARgamma through a synthetic ligand, troglitazone (TGZ), and other PPARgamma-activators cause inhibition of proliferation and lipid accumulation in cultured breast cancer cells. TGZ (10(-5) M, 4 days) reversibly inhibits clonal growth of MCF7 breast cancer cells and the combination of TGZ (10(-5) M) and ATRA (10(-6) M, 4 days) synergistically and irreversibly inhibits growth and induces apoptosis of MCF7 cells, associated with a dramatic decrease of their bcl-2 protein levels. Similar effects are noted with in vitro cultured breast cancer tissues from patients, but not with normal breast epithelial cells. The observed apoptosis mediated by TGZ and ATRA may be related to the striking down-regulation of bcl-2, because forced over-expression of bcl-2 in MCF7 cells cultured with TGZ and ATRA blocks their cell death. TGZ significantly inhibits MCF7 tumor growth in triple immunodeficient mice. Combined administration of TGZ and ATRA causes prominent apoptosis and fibrosis of these tumors without toxic effects on the mice. Taken together, this combination may provide a novel, nontoxic and selective therapy for human breast cancers.

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