BACKGROUND: Dihydroartemisinin (DHA), a semi-synthetic derivative of artemisinin, has recently shown antitumor activity in various cancer cells. Apo2 ligand or tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (Apo2L/TRAIL) is regarded as a promising anticancer agent, but chemoresistance affects its efficacy as a treatment strategy. Apoptosis induced by the combination of DHA and Apo2L/TRAIL has not been well documented, and the mechanisms involved remain unclear.
Acetyl-keto-beta-boswellic acid (AKBA), a triterpenoid isolated from Boswellia carterri Birdw and Boswellia serrata, has been found to inhibit tumor cell growth and to induce apoptosis. The apoptotic effects and the mechanisms of action of AKBA were studied in LNCaP and PC-3 human prostate cancer cells. AKBA induced apoptosis in both cell lines at concentrations above 10 microg/mL. AKBA-induced apoptosis was correlated with the activation of caspase-3 and caspase-8 as well as with poly(ADP)ribose polymerase (PARP) cleavage.
Whether celastrol, a triterpene from traditional Chinese medicine, can modulate the anticancer effects of TRAIL, the cytokine that is currently in clinical trial, was investigated. As indicated by assays that measure plasma membrane integrity, phosphatidylserine exposure, mitochondrial activity, and activation of caspase-8, caspase-9, and caspase-3, celastrol potentiated the TRAIL-induced apoptosis in human breast cancer cells, and converted TRAIL-resistant cells to TRAIL-sensitive cells.