Berbamine (BBM), a Natural STAT3 Inhibitor, Synergistically Enhances the Antigrowth and Proapoptotic Effects of Sorafenib on Hepatocellular Carcinoma Cells.
ACS Omega. 2020 Sep 29 ;5(38):24838-24847. Epub 2020 Sep 18. PMID: 33015502
Sorafenib (SORA), a multi kinase inhibitor, is the standard first-line targeted therapy approved by the Food and Drug Administration for advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). However, emerging evidence from clinical practice indicates that SORA alone has only moderate antitumor effects and could not completely inhibit the progression of the disease. Therefore, it is very necessary and urgent to develop novel combination therapy to improve the clinical outcomes of SORA. The pharmacological study on the chemosensitizing effects of natural products has become a hotspot in recent years, which is commonly thought to be a potential way to improve the effectiveness of drugs in clinical use. Berbamine (BBM) has potential sensitizing effects in multiple chemotherapies and target therapy. However, it remains unclarified whether the combination of BBM and SORA as a treatment could exert a synergistic effect on HCC cell lines. In this study, we first investigated whether BBM can increase the sensitivity of HCC cell lines to SORA. The results revealed that the combination of BBM and SORA could synergistically inhibit the growth of two HCC cell lines and promoted their apoptosis. Mechanistically, our results showed that BBM exerted a dose-dependent inhibitory effect on the basal and IL-6-induced STAT3 activation of HCC cell lines. In addition, the combined treatment of BBM and SORA synergistically suppressed STAT3 phosphorylation at Tyr705 and knockdown of STAT3 abolished the sensitization effect of BBM, indicating that BBM's sensitization effect is mainly mediated by its inhibition of STAT3. These findings identify a new type of natural STAT3 inhibitor and provide a novel approach to the enhancement of SORA efficacy by blocking the activation of STAT3.