Dihydroartemisinin induces apoptosis and sensitizes human ovarian cancer cells to carboplatin therapy.
The present study was designed to determine the effects of artemisinin (ARS) and its derivatives on human ovarian cancer cells, to evaluate their potential as novel chemotherapeutic agents used alone or in combination with a conventional cancer chemotherapeutic agent, and to investigate their underlying mechanisms of action. Human ovarian cancer cells (A2780 and OVCAR-3), and immortalized non-tumourigenic human ovarian surface epithelial cells (IOSE144), were exposed to four ARS compounds for cytotoxicity testing. The in vitro and in vivo antitumour effects and possible underlying mechanisms of action of dihydroartemisinin (DHA), the most effective compound, were further determined in ovarian cancer cells. ARS compounds exerted potent cytotoxicity to human ovarian carcinoma cells, with minimal effects on non-tumourigenic ovarian surface epithelial (OSE) cells. DHA inhibited ovarian cancer cell growth when administered alone or in combination with carboplatin, presumably through the death receptor- and, mitochondrion-mediated caspase-dependent apoptotic pathway. These effects were also observed in in vivo ovarian A2780 and OVCAR-3 xenograft tumour models. In conclusion, ARS derivatives, particularly DHA, exhibit significant anticancer activity against ovarian cancer cells in vitro and in vivo, with minimal toxicity to non-tumourigenic human OSE cells, indicating that they may be promising therapeutic agents for ovarian cancer, either used alone or in combination with conventional chemotherapy.