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BMC Cancer. 2012 Apr 13;12:147. doi: 10.1186/1471-2407-12-147.

Tetrathiomolybdate sensitizes ovarian cancer cells to anticancer drugs doxorubicin, fenretinide, 5-fluorouracil and mitomycin C.

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Molecular Therapeutics Laboratory, Program in Women's Oncology, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Women and Infants Hospital, Alpert Medical School, Brown University, Providence, RI 02905, USA.



Our recent study showed that tetrathiomolybdate (TM), a drug to treat copper overload disorders, can sensitize drug-resistant endometrial cancer cells to reactive oxygen species (ROS)-generating anticancer drug doxorubicin. To expand these findings in the present study we explore TM efficacy in combination with a spectrum of ROS-generating anticancer drugs including mitomycin C, fenretinide, 5-fluorouracil and doxorubicin in ovarian cancer cells as a model system.


The effects of TM alone or in combination with doxorubicin, mitomycin C, fenretinide, or 5-fluorouracil were evaluated using a sulforhodamine B assay. Flow cytometry was used to detect the induction of apoptosis and ROS generation. Immunoblot analysis was carried out to investigate changes in signaling pathways.


TM potentiated doxorubicin-induced cytotoxicity and modulated key regulators of apoptosis (PARP, caspases, JNK and p38 MAPK) in SKOV-3 and A2780 ovarian cancer cell lines. These effects were linked to the increased production of ROS, as shown in SKOV-3 cells. ROS scavenging by ascorbic acid blocked the sensitization of cells by TM. TM also sensitized SKOV-3 to mitomycin C, fenretinide, and 5-fluorouracil. The increased cytotoxicity of these drugs in combination with TM was correlated with the activity of ROS, loss of a pro-survival factor (e.g. XIAP) and the appearance of a pro-apoptotic marker (e.g. PARP cleavage).


Our data show that TM increases the efficacy of various anticancer drugs in ovarian cancer cells in a ROS-dependent manner.

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