Sorafenib and CuB exert synergistic antitumor effects against hepatocellular carcinoma cells via inhibition of STAT3 phosphorylation.
FEBS Open Bio. 2020 Nov 11. Epub 2020 Nov 11. PMID: 33176070
Sorafenib, the first-line agent for treatment of advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), improves median overall survival by approximately 3 months. In the present study, we investigated whether sorafenib combined with cucurbitacin B (CuB), a natural tetracyclic triterpenoid isolated from Cucurbitaceae, exerts enhanced antitumor effects against HCC. Cell viability and colony formation ability were detected by cell-counting kit-8 and colony formation assays. Cell cycle and apoptosis were analyzed by flow cytometry. Protein expression was detected by western blotting. HepG2 xenografts in nude mice were used to evaluate in vivo antitumor effects. We report that sorafenib and CuB exhibited synergistic effects on cellular proliferation inhibition and cell apoptosis induction, but not on cell cycle arrest. Furthermore, combination treatment enhanced levels of cleaved caspase 3 and cleaved caspase 9, but suppressed phosphorylation of STAT3. Epidermal growth factor, a potent stimulator of signal transducer and activator of transcription-3 (STAT3), promoted cell viability and colony formation ability, whereas combination treatment exerted inhibitory effects on epidermal growth factor-induced STAT3 phosphorylation. Finally, HepG2 xenograft mice cotreated with sorafenib and CuB exhibited reduced tumor progression without notable weight loss. In conclusion, sorafenib and CuB exert synergistic antitumor effects through a pathway that may involve STAT3 phosphorylation, and this may represent a promising therapeutic approach for treatment of HCC.