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      Combined Treatment of Tanshinone I and Epirubicin Revealed Enhanced Inhibition of Hepatocellular Carcinoma by Targeting PI3K/AKT/HIF-1α


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          Epirubicin (EADM) is a common chemotherapeutic agent in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The accumulation of hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) is an important cause of drug resistance to EADM in HCC. Tanshinone I (Tan I) is an agent with promising anti-cancer effects alone or with other drugs. Some tanshinones mediate HIF-1α regulation via PI3K/AKT. However, the role of Tan I combined with EADM to reduce the resistance of HCC to EADM has not been investigated. Therefore, this study aimed to investigate the combined use of Tan I and EADM in HCC and the underlying mechanism of PI3K/AKT/HIF-1α.


          HCC cells were treated with Tan I, EADM, or the combined treatment for 48 hrs. Cell transfection was used to construct HIF-1α overexpression HCC stable cells. Cell viability, colony formation, and flow cytometric assays were used to detect the viability, proliferation, and apoptosis in HCC cells. Synergism between Tan I and EADM were tested by calculating the Bliss synergy score, positive excess over bliss additivism (EOBA), and the combination index (CI). Western blotting analyses were used to detect the levels of β-actin, HIF-1α, PI3K p110α, p-Akt Thr308, Cleaved Caspase-3, and Cleaved Caspase-9. Toxicity parameters were used to evaluate the safety of the combination in mice. The xenograft model of mice was built by HCC stable cell lines, which was administrated with Tan I, EADM, or a combination of them for 8 weeks. Immunohistochemistry staining (IHC) was used to assess tumor apoptosis in mouse models.


          Hypoxia could upregulate HIF-1α to induce drug resistance in HCC cancer cells. The combination of Tan I and EADM was synergistic. Although Tan I or EADM alone could inhibit HCC cancer cells, the combination of them could further enhance the cytotoxicity and growth inhibition by targeting the PI3K/AKT/HIF-1α signaling pathway. Furthermore, Tan I and EADM synergistically reversed HIF-1α-mediated drug resistance to inhibit HCC. The results of toxicity parameters showed that the combination was safe in mice. Meanwhile, animal models showed that Tan I not only improved the anti-tumor effect of EADM, but also reduced the drug reactions of EADM-induced weight loss.


          Our results suggested that Tan I could effectively improve the anti-tumor effect of EADM, and synergize EADM to reverse HIF-1α mediated resistance via targeting PI3K/AKT/HIF-1α signaling pathway.

          Most cited references42

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          Global cancer statistics 2020: GLOBOCAN estimates of incidence and mortality worldwide for 36 cancers in 185 countries

          This article provides an update on the global cancer burden using the GLOBOCAN 2020 estimates of cancer incidence and mortality produced by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Worldwide, an estimated 19.3 million new cancer cases (18.1 million excluding nonmelanoma skin cancer) and almost 10.0 million cancer deaths (9.9 million excluding nonmelanoma skin cancer) occurred in 2020. Female breast cancer has surpassed lung cancer as the most commonly diagnosed cancer, with an estimated 2.3 million new cases (11.7%), followed by lung (11.4%), colorectal (10.0 %), prostate (7.3%), and stomach (5.6%) cancers. Lung cancer remained the leading cause of cancer death, with an estimated 1.8 million deaths (18%), followed by colorectal (9.4%), liver (8.3%), stomach (7.7%), and female breast (6.9%) cancers. Overall incidence was from 2-fold to 3-fold higher in transitioned versus transitioning countries for both sexes, whereas mortality varied <2-fold for men and little for women. Death rates for female breast and cervical cancers, however, were considerably higher in transitioning versus transitioned countries (15.0 vs 12.8 per 100,000 and 12.4 vs 5.2 per 100,000, respectively). The global cancer burden is expected to be 28.4 million cases in 2040, a 47% rise from 2020, with a larger increase in transitioning (64% to 95%) versus transitioned (32% to 56%) countries due to demographic changes, although this may be further exacerbated by increasing risk factors associated with globalization and a growing economy. Efforts to build a sustainable infrastructure for the dissemination of cancer prevention measures and provision of cancer care in transitioning countries is critical for global cancer control.
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            Theoretical basis, experimental design, and computerized simulation of synergism and antagonism in drug combination studies.

            The median-effect equation derived from the mass-action law principle at equilibrium-steady state via mathematical induction and deduction for different reaction sequences and mechanisms and different types of inhibition has been shown to be the unified theory for the Michaelis-Menten equation, Hill equation, Henderson-Hasselbalch equation, and Scatchard equation. It is shown that dose and effect are interchangeable via defined parameters. This general equation for the single drug effect has been extended to the multiple drug effect equation for n drugs. These equations provide the theoretical basis for the combination index (CI)-isobologram equation that allows quantitative determination of drug interactions, where CI 1 indicate synergism, additive effect, and antagonism, respectively. Based on these algorithms, computer software has been developed to allow automated simulation of synergism and antagonism at all dose or effect levels. It displays the dose-effect curve, median-effect plot, combination index plot, isobologram, dose-reduction index plot, and polygonogram for in vitro or in vivo studies. This theoretical development, experimental design, and computerized data analysis have facilitated dose-effect analysis for single drug evaluation or carcinogen and radiation risk assessment, as well as for drug or other entity combinations in a vast field of disciplines of biomedical sciences. In this review, selected examples of applications are given, and step-by-step examples of experimental designs and real data analysis are also illustrated. The merging of the mass-action law principle with mathematical induction-deduction has been proven to be a unique and effective scientific method for general theory development. The median-effect principle and its mass-action law based computer software are gaining increased applications in biomedical sciences, from how to effectively evaluate a single compound or entity to how to beneficially use multiple drugs or modalities in combination therapies.
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              Doxorubicin: an update on anticancer molecular action, toxicity and novel drug delivery systems.

              The frontline drug doxorubicin has been used for treating cancer for over 30 years. While providing a cure in select cases, doxorubicin causes toxicity to most major organs, especially life-threatening cardiotoxicity, which forces the treatment to become dose-limiting. Doxorubicin is known to bind to DNA-associated enzymes, intercalate with DNA base pairs, and target multiple molecular targets to produce a range of cytotoxic effects. For instance, it causes the activation of various molecular signals from AMPK (AMP-activated protein kinase inducing apoptosis) to influence the Bcl-2/Bax apoptosis pathway. By altering the Bcl-2/Bax ratio, downstream activation of different caspases can occur resulting in apoptosis. Doxorubicin also induces apoptosis and necrosis in healthy tissue causing toxicity in the brain, liver, kidney and heart. Over the years, many studies have been conducted to devise a drug delivery system that would eliminate these adverse affects including liposomes, hydrogel and nanoparticulate systems, and we highlight the pros and cons of these drug delivery systems. Overall the future for the continued use of doxorubicin clinically against cancer looks set to be prolonged, provided certain enhancements as listed above are made to its chemistry, delivery and toxicity. Increased efficacy depends on these three aims being met satisfactorily as discussed in turn in this review. © 2012 The Authors. JPP © 2012 Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

                Author and article information

                Drug Des Devel Ther
                Drug Des Devel Ther
                Drug Design, Development and Therapy
                19 September 2022
                : 16
                : 3197-3213
                [1 ]Department of Hepatobiliary Surgery, Fifth Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University , Zhuhai, People’s Republic of China
                [2 ]Department of Anesthesiology, Fifth Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University , Zhuhai, People’s Republic of China
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Jian Li; Baojia Zou, Department of Hepatobiliary Surgery, Fifth Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University , Zhuhai, People’s Republic of China, Tel +86-756-252-8781, Fax +86-756-252-8166, Email lijian5@mail.sysu.edu.cn; zoubj6@mail.sysu.edu.cn
                Author information
                © 2022 Zhao et al.

                This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited. The full terms of this license are available at https://www.dovepress.com/terms.php and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/). By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed. For permission for commercial use of this work, please see paragraphs 4.2 and 5 of our Terms ( https://www.dovepress.com/terms.php).

                : 01 February 2022
                : 25 August 2022
                Page count
                Figures: 7, Tables: 1, References: 42, Pages: 17
                Original Research

                Pharmacology & Pharmaceutical medicine
                hepatocellular carcinoma,epirubicin,tanshinone i,hif-1α,resistance


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