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Int J Clin Exp Pathol. 2013 Aug 15;6(9):1799-805. eCollection 2013.

Growth inhibitory effect of Cucurbitacin E on breast cancer cells.

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Department of Medical Oncology, the key laboratory of Integrated Chinese and Western Medical Oncology in Zhejiang Province, Zhejiang Cancer Hospital HangZhou, China 310022 ; Department of Medical Oncology, Institute of Clinical Science, Sir Runrun Shaw Hospital, Medical College of Zhejiang University Hangzhou, China 310003.



Due its inhibitory effects on chemical carcinogenesis and inflammation, Cucurbitacins have been proposed as an effective agent for the prevention or treatment of human cancers. In this study, we aimed to explore the effect of Cucurbitacin E (CuE) on human breast cancer cells.


The inhibitory effect of CuE on proliferation of Bcap37 and MDA-MB-231 cells was assessed by MTT assay. The cell cycle distribution and cell apoptosis were determined by flow cytometry (FCM). The expression of pro-caspase 3, cleaved caspase 3, p21, p27 and the phosphorylation of signaling proteins was detected by Western Blotting.


CuE inhibited the growth of human breast cancer cells in a dose and time-dependent manner. FCM analysis showed that CuE induced G2/M phase arrest and cell apoptosis. CuE treatment promoted the cleavage of caspase 3 and upregulated p21 and p27. In addition, the phosphorylation of STAT3 but not ERK-1/2 was abrogated upon CuE treatment. Interestingly, losedose CuE significantly enhanced the growth inhibition induced by cisplatin. Conclusions Cucurbitacin E (CuE) could inhibit the growth of human breast cancer cells in vitro. CuE induced both apoptosis and cell cycle arrest probably through the inhibition of STAT3 function. Lose-dose CuE significantly enhanced the growth inhibitory effect of cisplatin on breast cancer cells, further indicating the potential clinical values of CuE for the prevention or treatment of human breast cancer.


Cucurbitacin E; apoptosis; breast cancer

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