Cytotoxic effects induced by a combination of cyclopamine and gefitinib, the selective hedgehog and epidermal growth factor receptor signaling inhibitors, in prostate cancer cells

Int J Cancer. 2006 Feb 15;118(4):1022-31. doi: 10.1002/ijc.21440.


Although the blockade of the hedgehog cascade by using cyclopamine has been reported to inhibit the growth of some cancer cell types, few studies on the mechanism by which this drug alone or in combination with other cytotoxic agents induces its cytotoxic effect have been reported. In our study, we evaluate, for the first time, the antiproliferative and cytotoxic effects induced by a combination of selective SMO inhibitor, cyclopamine and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitor, gefitinib on metastatic prostate cancer (PC) cells. The results revealed that cyclopamine, alone or at a lower concentration in combination with gefitinib, inhibited the growth of sonic hedgehog- (SHH), epidermal growth factor- (EGF) and serum-stimulated androgen-sensitive LNCaP-C33 and LNCaP-LN3 and androgen-independent LNCaP-C81, DU145 and PC3 cells. The antiproliferative effect of cyclopamine and gefitinib, alone or in combination, was mediated via a blockade of the PC3 cells in the G1 phase of the cell cycle. Importantly, the combined cyclopamine and gefitinib also caused a higher rate of apoptotic death of PC cells compared to single agents. The cytotoxic effect induced by these drugs in PC3 cells appears to be mediated at least, in part, via the mitochondrial pathway through the depolarization of the mitochondrial membrane and the release of cytochrome c and reactive oxygen species into the cytosol. This was also accompanied by the activation of caspase cascades, PARP cleavage and DNA fragmentation. Additionally, the combined cyclopamine and gefitinib were more effective at suppressing the invasiveness of PC3 cells through matrigel in vitro as the drugs alone. These findings indicate that the simultaneous blockade of SHH-GLI-1 and EGF-EGFR signaling, which results in the growth arrest and massive rate of apoptotic cell death, represents a promising strategy for a more effective treatment of metastatic PC forms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / pharmacology
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation
  • DNA Damage
  • Epidermal Growth Factor / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Epidermal Growth Factor / physiology
  • ErbB Receptors / antagonists & inhibitors
  • ErbB Receptors / physiology
  • Gefitinib
  • Hedgehog Proteins
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Quinazolines / pharmacology*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Trans-Activators / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Trans-Activators / physiology
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Veratrum Alkaloids / pharmacology*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Hedgehog Proteins
  • Quinazolines
  • SHH protein, human
  • Trans-Activators
  • Veratrum Alkaloids
  • Epidermal Growth Factor
  • ErbB Receptors
  • Gefitinib
  • cyclopamine