Synergistic anti-cancer effects of silibinin-etoposide combination against human breast carcinoma MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 cell lines

Document Type : Original Article


1 Department of Clinical Biochemistry, Ahvaz Jundishapur University of Medical Sciences, Ahvaz, Iran

2 Toxicology Research Center, Department of Clinical Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine, Ahvaz Jundishapur University of Medical Sciences, Ahvaz, Iran

3 Department of Infection, Immunity, and Inflammation, University of Leicester, LE1 7RH, UK

4 Hyperlipidemia Research Center, Department of Clinical Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine, Ahvaz Jundishapur University of Medical Sciences, Ahvaz, Iran


Objective(s): Recently, there is a significant focus on combination chemotherapy for cancer using a cytotoxic drug and a phytochemical compound. We investigated the effect of silibinin on etoposide-induced apoptosis in MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 breast carcinoma cell lines.
Materials and Methods: The cytotoxic effects of silibinin and etoposide were determined using MTT assay after 24 and 48 hr incubation with these drugs individually and combined. The mRNA expression of Bax and Bcl2, and protein levels of P53, phosphorylated p53 (P-P53), and P21 were determined using real-time PCR and western blot analysis, respectively. The caspase 9 activity was measured using an ELISA kit.
Results: Silibinin and etoposide alone and combined significantly inhibit cell growth in a dose and time-dependent manner in both cell lines. The strongest synergistic effects in terms of MCF-7 cell growth inhibition [combination index (CI) = 0.066] were evident. The silibinin-etoposide combinations cause a much powerful apoptotic death (47% and 40%) compared with each compound individually in MCF-7 and MDA-MB 231 cells, respectively. Additionally, the silibinin-etoposide combinations significantly increased the expression of P53, P-P53, and P21 in MCF-7 cells. Neither silibinin nor etoposide individually increased the level of P53 and P-P53 in MDA-MB-231 cells, but both of them individually and combined increased the level of P21.
Conclusion: Since the silibinin-etoposide combination induces apoptosis in both cell lines with and without expression of p53, thus, it is suggested that this combination may be a successful therapeutic strategy for breast cancer regardless of P53 status.


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