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Anticancer Res. 2013 Mar;33(3):929-40.

β-Elemene and taxanes synergistically induce cytotoxicity and inhibit proliferation in ovarian cancer and other tumor cells.

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National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


β-Elemene, originally derived from plants, has been recently investigated as a new anticancer agent. The purpose of this study was to explore the efficacy and mechanisms of action of the combined use of β-elemene plus a taxane as an antitumor therapeutic strategy for ovarian cancer and other carcinomas. The interaction of β-elemene with paclitaxel or docetaxel produced additive to moderately synergistic effects against the platinum-resistant ovarian cancer cell line A2780/CP70 and its parental cell line A2780, and showed moderately synergistic activity against PC-3 prostate cancer cells. In addition, the co-administration of β-elemene and a taxane at low-micromolar concentrations dramatically increased the rate of micronucleus formation and the percentage of mitotic arrest in both ovarian cancer cell lines, as compared with treatment with either agent alone. The highest synergy towards the ovarian cancer cells was observed with β-elemene plus docetaxel. Consistent with these data, treatment of A2780/CP70 cells with β-elemene plus a taxane strikingly reduced cell viability and increased cell apoptosis, as assessed by annexin V binding. Moreover, β-elemene plus docetaxel induced elevated levels of caspase-9 and p53 proteins in A2780/CP70 cells, and the combination of β-elemene plus a taxane caused marked cell-cycle arrest at the G2/M phase in these cells. One possible mechanism to account for the enhanced cytotoxic efficacy of this combination treatment is a β-elemene-induced increase in taxane influx into cancer cells. These observations indicate that combination therapy with β-elemene and taxanes has synergistic antitumor activity against ovarian and prostate carcinomas in vitro. This promising new therapeutic combination warrants further pre-clinical exploration for the treatment of chemoresistant ovarian cancer and other types of tumors.

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