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Endocr Relat Cancer. 2012 Sep 21;19(5):711-23. doi: 10.1530/ERC-12-0150. Print 2012 Oct.

Arsenic trioxide synergizes with everolimus (Rad001) to induce cytotoxicity of ovarian cancer cells through increased autophagy and apoptosis.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Nanfang Hospital, Southern Medical University, Guangzhou, Guangdong, Republic of China.


Phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/AKT/mammalian target of rapamycin pathway plays a key role in the tumorigenesis of a variety of human cancers including ovarian cancer. However, inhibitors of this pathway such as Rad001 have not shown therapeutic efficacy as a single agent for this cancer. Arsenic trioxide (ATO) induces an autophagic pathway in ovarian carcinoma cells. We found that ATO can synergize with Rad001 to induce cytotoxicity of ovarian cancer cells. Moreover, we identified synergistic induction of autophagy and apoptosis as the likely underlying mechanism that is responsible for the enhanced cytotoxicity. The enhanced cytotoxicity is accompanied by decreased p-AKT levels as well as upregulation of ATG5-ATG12 conjugate and LC3-2, hallmarks of autophagy. Rad001 and ATO can also synergistically inhibit tumors in a xenograft animal model of ovarian cancer. These results thus identify and validate a novel mechanism to enhance and expand the existing targeted therapeutic agent to treat human ovarian cancer.

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