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Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2002 Nov;76(1):57-64.

Cyclooxygenase inhibitors block cell growth, increase ceramide and inhibit cell cycle.

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Department of Pathology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore 21201, USA.


We have shown previously in a model of metastatic breast cancer that murine mammary tumor cells express both cyclooxygenase-1 (Cox-1) and Cox-2 isoforms. Growth and metastasis of these tumors in syngeneic hosts are inhibited by either selective Cox-1 (SC560) or selective Cox-2 (celecoxib) inhibitors. To gain insight into the relevant mechanisms involved in the therapeutic response, we determined the effect of Cox inhibitors on tumor cell behavior in vitro. We now report that either selective Cox-1 or Cox-2 drugs inhibited cell replication, but only at concentrations that are no longer selective for either isoform. Growth delay by either nonselective or selective inhibitors was associated with changes in cell morphology including cell rounding; these changes were reversed upon removal of drug. Unlike many other cell types examined, treatment of these mammary tumor cells with Cox inhibitors was not associated with detectable apoptosis. Growth inhibition, induced by either selective or nonselective Cox inhibitors, was accompanied by increased intracellular levels of the sphingolipid ceramide by 1.7-2.6-fold in comparison to vehicle-treated cells. Ceramide changes are associated with cell cycle arrest and we observed that all the Cox inhibitors examined increased significantly the number of cells in G0/G1 and reduced the S phase fraction. Likewise, addition of a cell-permeable form of ceramide (C6-ceramide) could mimic the effect of Cox inhibitors on both cell cycle and cell growth inhibition. Thus, mammary tumor cells are growth restricted by Cox inhibitors. These effects are associated with changes in ceramide levels and a block in cell cycle progression.

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