Huaier extract synergizes with tamoxifen to induce autophagy and apoptosis in ER-positive breast cancer cells.
Oncotarget. 2016 Mar 23. Epub 2016 Mar 23. PMID: 27027343
Tamoxifen (TAM) is the most widely used endocrine therapy for estrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer patients, but side effects and the gradual development of insensitivity limit its application. We investigated whether Huaier extract, a traditional Chinese medicine, in combination with TAM would improve treatment efficacy in ER-positive breast cancers. MTT, colony formation, and invasion and migration assays revealed that the combined treatment had stronger anticancer effects than either treatment alone. Huaier extract enhanced TAM-induced autophagy, apoptosis, and G0/G1 cell cycle arrest, as measured by acidic vesicular organelle (AVO) staining, TUNEL, flow cytometry, and western blot. Additionally, combined treatment inhibited tumorigenesis and metastasis by suppressing the AKT/mTOR signaling pathway. Huaier extract also enhanced the inhibitory effects of TAM on tumor growth in vivo in a xenograft mouse model. These results show that Huaier extract synergizes with TAM to induce autophagy and apoptosis in ER-positive breast cancer cells by suppressing the AKT/mTOR pathway.