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Logo of bmccancBioMed Centralsearchsubmit a manuscriptregisterthis articleBMC Cancer
BMC Cancer. 2012; 12: 147.
Published online 2012 April 13. doi:  10.1186/1471-2407-12-147
PMCID: PMC3353246

Tetrathiomolybdate sensitizes ovarian cancer cells to anticancer drugs doxorubicin, fenretinide, 5-fluorouracil and mitomycin C



Our recent study showed that tetrathiomolybdate (TM), a drug to treat copper overload disorders, can sensitize drug-resistant endometrial cancer cells to reactive oxygen species (ROS)-generating anticancer drug doxorubicin. To expand these findings in the present study we explore TM efficacy in combination with a spectrum of ROS-generating anticancer drugs including mitomycin C, fenretinide, 5-fluorouracil and doxorubicin in ovarian cancer cells as a model system.


The effects of TM alone or in combination with doxorubicin, mitomycin C, fenretinide, or 5-fluorouracil were evaluated using a sulforhodamine B assay. Flow cytometry was used to detect the induction of apoptosis and ROS generation. Immunoblot analysis was carried out to investigate changes in signaling pathways.


TM potentiated doxorubicin-induced cytotoxicity and modulated key regulators of apoptosis (PARP, caspases, JNK and p38 MAPK) in SKOV-3 and A2780 ovarian cancer cell lines. These effects were linked to the increased production of ROS, as shown in SKOV-3 cells. ROS scavenging by ascorbic acid blocked the sensitization of cells by TM. TM also sensitized SKOV-3 to mitomycin C, fenretinide, and 5-fluorouracil. The increased cytotoxicity of these drugs in combination with TM was correlated with the activity of ROS, loss of a pro-survival factor (e.g. XIAP) and the appearance of a pro-apoptotic marker (e.g. PARP cleavage).


Our data show that TM increases the efficacy of various anticancer drugs in ovarian cancer cells in a ROS-dependent manner.

Keywords: Tetrathiomolybdate, Combination treatment, Doxorubicin, Mitomycin C, Fenretinide, 5-fluorouracil, ROS generation

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