Tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) has been used to treat certain tumors in clinic trials. However, the curative effect of TNFα has been undermined by the induced-NF-κB activation in many types of tumor. Maslinic acid (MA), a pharmacological safe natural product, has been known for its important effects as anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-viral activities. The aim of this study was to determine whether MA potentiates the anti-tumor activity of TNFα though the regulation of NF-κB activation.
In this study, we demonstrate that MA significantly enhanced TNFα-induced inhibition of pancreatic cancer cell proliferation, invasion, and potentiated TNFα-induced cell apoptosis by suppressing TNFα-induced NF-κB activation in a dose- and time-dependent manner. Addition of MA inhibited TNFα-induced IκBα degradation, p65 phosphorylation, and nuclear translocation. Furthermore, MA decreased the expression levels of NF-κB-regulated genes, including genes involved in tumor cell proliferation (Cyclin D1, COX-2 and c-Myc), apoptosis (Survivin, Bcl-2, Bcl-xl, XIAP, IAP-1), invasion (MMP-9 and ICAM-1), and angiogenesis (VEGF). In athymic nu/nu mouse model, we further demonstrated that MA significantly suppressed pancreatic tumor growth, induced tumor apoptosis, and inhibited NF-κB-regulated anti-apoptotic gene expression, such as Survivin and Bcl-xl.
Our data demonstrate that MA can potentiate the anti-tumor activities of TNFα and inhibit pancreatic tumor growth and invasion by activating caspase-dependent apoptotic pathway and by suppressing NF-κB activation and its downstream gene expression. Therefore, MA together with TNFα could be new promising agents in the treatment of pancreatic cancer.