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Int J Oncol. 2011 Jun;38(6):1731-9. doi: 10.3892/ijo.2011.986. Epub 2011 Mar 23.

Differential augmentative effects of buthionine sulfoximine and ascorbic acid in As2O3-induced ovarian cancer cell death: oxidative stress-independent and -dependent cytotoxic potentiation.

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Department of Pharmacy, National University of Singapore, 18 Science Drive 4, Singapore 117 543.


The potential of arsenic trioxide (As2O3) as a novel therapy against ovarian cancer has been progressively recognized. Its prospective usefulness for treatment of this malignancy either alone or in combination with other chemotherapeutic agents has been increasingly explored. In this study, we attempted to enhance the cytotoxicity of As2O3 in ovarian cancer cells through manipulation of cellular glutathione (GSH) levels using either buthionine sulfoximine (BSO) or ascorbic acid (AA). Results from our studies showed that combinatorial therapies using As2O3 with either low dose BSO or only pharmacological doses of AA acted synergistically to enhance the cytotoxicity of As2O3 in ovarian tumor cells. With these regimens, therapeutic selectivity was observed with preferential killing of ovarian tumor cells over normal fibroblast controls. Furthermore, contrary to previous reports, enhancement of As2O3-mediated cell killing by these two agents was propagated through different effects. With BSO, apoptotic and non-apoptotic cell death enhancement were mediated through increased arsenic accumulation and GSH depletion that occurred independently of reactive oxygen species. With pharmacological doses of AA, increase in cell death proceeded through non-apoptotic routes via an oxidative stress-related pathway independent of GSH levels. Taken together, these results indicate that GSH depleting agents or pro-oxidative chemicals have capabilities of improving the utility of As2O3 in ovarian cancer management.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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