Anticancer Effect of Tetrandrine on Primary Cancer Cells Isolated From Ascites and Pleural Fluids

Cancer Lett. 2008 Sep 8;268(1):166-75. doi: 10.1016/j.canlet.2008.03.059. Epub 2008 May 20.


Objective: The present study was designed to examine the effect of tetrandrine on primary cancer cells isolated from the ascites or pleural fluids of patients with metastatic cancers.

Methods: Primary cancer cells were isolated from the pleural fluids (n=13) or ascites (n=21) of patients. Compared with culture cell lines, the response of these cancer cells to tetrandrine and chemotherapeutic agents commonly used in clinical practice were determined by WST-8 assay. Tetrandrine-induced apoptosis in primary cancer cells was determined by Annexin V-FITC assay. Quantitative RT-PCR was used to examine the role of apoptotic associated genes in the anticancer effect of tetrandrine.

Results: The primary cancer cells isolated from effusions showed sensitivity to tetrandrine with IC50 values of 38.23+/-25.77microM, similar to the IC50 in established cell lines. Patients with gastric cancers were more sensitive to tetrandrine than patients with lung cancers (P=0.04). Four cancer cells isolated from effusions were resistant to tetrandrine, which also had increased tolerance to docetaxel, cisplatin and 5-fluorouracil. We also observed a weak but significant correlation between sensitivity to tetrandrine and cellular expression of bcl-2 (P=0.035, r=-0.364).

Conclusions: Using cancer cells isolated from the ascites or pleural fluids, this study shows the potential anticancer effect of tetrandrine against primary cancer cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis
  • Ascitic Fluid / drug effects*
  • Ascitic Fluid / pathology
  • Benzylisoquinolines / pharmacology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • Drug Screening Assays, Antitumor
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Pleural Effusion, Malignant / drug therapy*
  • Pleural Effusion, Malignant / pathology*
  • Time Factors


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Benzylisoquinolines
  • tetrandrine