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.