Recently, we reported that β-carotene exhibited anticancer activity against human esophageal squamous cell carcinoma cells in vitro. In the present study, we examined a novel therapeutic strategy by combining β-carotene with 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) in human esophageal cancer in vitro and in vivo, and elucidated the underlying mechanisms. We found that the combination of 5-FU and β-carotene displayed greater growth inhibitory effects than did either compound alone in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) cells. In addition, the combination of 5-FU and β-carotene displayed greater tumor growth inhibition in an Eca109 xenograft mouse model than did a single agent with low systemic toxicity. β-Carotene enhanced 5-FU-induced apoptosis. TUNEL staining revealed that the rate of TUNEL-positive cells was markedly increased in tumor tissues after treatment with 5-FU and β-carotene. Western blotting and immunohistochemistry revealed the down-regulation of Bcl-2 and PCNA and the up-regulation of Bax and caspase-3 in tumor tissues. Further studies demonstrated that the combined administration of 5-FU and β-carotene significantly down-regulated the protein levels of Cav-1, p-AKT, p-NF-κB, p-mTOR and p-p70S6K in Eca109 cells more effectively than did 5-FU alone. These data suggested that the combined therapy of 5-FU and β-carotene exerted synergistic antitumor effects in vivo and in vitro and could constitute a novel therapeutic treatment for ESCC.
- Esophageal cancer cells
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