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Onco Targets Ther. 2013 Jul 25;6:983-98. doi: 10.2147/OTT.S45322. Print 2013.

Cordycepin enhances cisplatin apoptotic effect through caspase/MAPK pathways in human head and neck tumor cells.

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Department of Anesthesia, Chi-Mei Medical Center, Liouying, Tainan, Taiwan ; Department of Nursing, Min-Hwei College of Health Care Management, Tainan, Taiwan.



The present study aims to investigate whether the combination treatment of cordycepin (an extracted pure compound from Cordyceps sinensis) and cisplatin (a platinum-based chemotherapy drug) has better apoptotic effect in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC).


The apoptotic influences of cordycepin and/or cisplatin treatments to human OC3, OEC-M1, and FaDu HNSCC cells were investigated by morphological observations, viability assay, flow cytometry assay, and Western blotting methods.


Data showed that the cell death phenomenon increased as the dosage of cordycepin or cisplatin increased, and it appeared more in cordycepin plus cisplatin cotreatment among three cell lines. Cell survival rates significantly decreased as the dosage of cordycepin or cisplatin increased, and the better apoptotic effects were observed in cotreatment. Cell cycle analysis further demonstrated that percentages of subG1 cells in cordycepin or cisplatin treatments significantly increased, suggesting that cells underwent apoptosis, and cordycepin plus cisplatin induced many more subG1 cells. Furthermore, cordycepin or cisplatin induced caspase-8, caspase-9, caspase-3, and poly adenosine diphosphate-ribose polymerase protein cleavages, and stimulated c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase, extracellular signal-regulated kinase, and p38 protein phosphorylations. Moreover, cordycepin plus cisplatin cotreatment significantly activated those proteins with much better effects among three cell lines.


Cordycepin plus cisplatin have better apoptotic effect by activating caspase activation with possible MAPK pathway involvement in HNSCC cells.


HNSCC; MAPK; apoptosis; caspase; cisplatin; cordycepin

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