Anticancer drugs docetaxel and vinorelbine suppress cell growth by altering microtubule assembly and activating the proapoptotic signal pathway. Vinorelbine and docetaxel have been approved for treating several advanced cancers. However, their efficacy in the management of advanced hormone-refractory prostate cancer remains to be clarified. Microtubule damage by some anticancer drugs can activate the ERK survival pathway, which conversely compromises chemotherapeutic efficacy. We analyzed the effect of ERK inhibitors PD98059 and U0126 on vinorelbine- and docetaxel-induced cell growth suppression of androgen-independent prostate cancer cells. In androgen-independent C-81 LNCaP cells, inhibition of ERK by PD98059, but not U0126, plus docetaxel resulted in enhanced growth suppression by an additional 20% compared to the sum of each agent alone (p < 0.02). The combination treatment of docetaxel plus PD98059 also increased cellular apoptosis, which was in part due to the inactivation of Bcl-2 by increasing phosphorylated Bcl-2 by more than 6-fold and Bax expression by 3-fold over each agent alone. At these dosages, docetaxel alone caused only marginal phosphorylation of Bcl-2 (10%). Docetaxel plus U0126 had only 20% added effect on Bcl-2 phosphorylation compared to docetaxel alone. Nevertheless, both U0126 and PD98059 exhibited an enhanced effect on docetaxel-induced growth suppression in PC-3 cells. No enhanced effect was observed for vinorelbine plus PD98059 or U0126. Thus, the combination therapy of docetaxel plus PD98059 may represent a new anticancer strategy, requiring lower drug dosages compared to docetaxel monotherapy. This may lower the cytotoxicity and enhance tumor suppression in vivo. This finding of a combination effect could be of potential clinical importance in treating hormone-refractory prostate cancer.
Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.