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Cell Death Differ. 2004 Jul;11(7):737-46.

Effective treatment of advanced solid tumors by the combination of arsenic trioxide and L-buthionine-sulfoximine.

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Laboratory of Functional Biology, Kyoto University Graduate School of Biostudies, Kyoto 606-8501, Japan.


Clinical application of anticancer agents has been often hampered by toxicity against normal cells, so the achievement of their cancer-specific action is still one of the major challenges to be addressed. Previously, we reported that arsenic trioxide (As2O3) could be a promising new drug against not only leukemia but also solid tumors. The cytotoxicity of As2O3 occurred through the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), thus inhibiting radical scavenging systems would enhance the therapeutic efficacy of As2O3 provided that normal cells were relatively resistant to such a measure. Here, we report that the combination therapy of As2O3 with L-buthionine-sulfoximine (BSO), which inhibits a critical step in glutathione synthesis, effectively enhanced in vitro growth inhibition effect of As2O3 on all 11 investigated cell lines arising from prostate, breast, lung, colon, cervix, bladder, and kidney cancers, compared with As2O3 treatment alone. Furthermore, this combination enhanced cytotoxicity to cell lines from prostate cancer with less toxicity to those from normal prostate. In vitro cytotoxic assay using ROS-related compounds demonstrated that hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is a major cytotoxic mediator among ROS molecules. Biochemical analysis showed that combined use of As2O3 and BSO blocked H2O2-scavenging systems including glutathione, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase, and that the degree of this blockade was well correlated with intracellular ROS levels and sensitivity to this treatment. Finally, the effectiveness of the combination therapy of As2O3 with BSO was demonstrated with an orthotopic model of prostate cancer metastasis. We propose that the combination therapy of As2O3 with BSO is a valid means of blockade of H2O2-scavenging system, and that the combination of a ROS-generating agent with an inhibitor of major scavenging systems is effective in terms of both efficacy and selectivity. Furthermore, because the effective doses of both compounds are within clinically achievable range, this report will lead to immediate benefit for the development of a new cancer therapy.

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