Berbamine enhances the antineoplastic activity of gemcitabine in pancreatic cancer cells by activating transforming growth factor-β/Smad signaling.
Anat Rec (Hoboken). 2014 May ;297(5):802-9. Epub 2014 Mar 12. PMID: 24619961
Drug-resistance to gemcitabine chemotherapy in pancreatic cancer is still an unsolved problem. Combinations of other chemotherapy drugs with gemcitabine have been shown to increase the efficacy of gemcitabine-based treatment. In this study, the effect of berbamine on the antitumor activity of gemcitabine was evaluated in human pancreatic cancer cell lines Bxpc-3 and Panc-1, and the underlying mechanisms were explored. Our results demonstrated that berbamine exhibited a time- and dose-dependent inhibitory effect in the pancreatic cancer cell lines. Berbamine enhanced gemcitabine-induced cell growth inhibition and apoptosis in these cells. Combined treatment of berbamine and gemcitabine resulted in down-regulation of anti-apoptotic proteins (Bcl-2, Bcl-xL) and up-regulation of pro-apoptotic proteins (Bax, Bid). More importantly, berbamine treatment in combination with gemcitabine activated the transforming growth factor-β/Smad (TGF-β/Smad) signaling pathway, as a result of a decrease in Smad7 and an increase in transforming growth factor-β receptor II (TβRII) expression. Changes in downstream targets of Smad7, such as up-regulation of p21 and down-regulation of c-Myc and Cyclin D1 were also observed. Therefore,berbamine could enhance the antitumor activity of gemcitabine by inhibiting cell growth and inducing apoptosis, possibly through the regulation of the expression of apoptosis-related proteins and the activation of TGF-β/Smad signaling pathway. Our study indicates that berbamine may be a promisingcandidate to be used in combination with gemcitabine for pancreatic cancer treatment.