Background: Clinical trials have shown that docetaxel combined with other novel agents can improve the survival of androgen-independent prostate cancer patients. d -Limonene, a non-nutrient dietary component, has been found to inhibit various cancer cell growths without toxicity. We sought to characterize whether a non-toxic dose of d -limonene may enhance tumor response to docetaxel in an in vitro model of metastatic prostate cancer.
Materials and methods: Human prostate carcinoma DU-145 and normal prostate epithelial PZ-HPV-7 cells were treated with various concentrations of d -limonene, docetaxel or a combination of both, and cell viability was determined by MTT assay. Intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS), reduced glutathione (GSH) and caspase activity were measured. Apoptosis and apoptosis-related proteins were studied by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and Western blotting, respectively.
Results: d -Limonene and docetaxel in combination significantly enhanced the cytotoxicity to DU-145 cells than PZ-HPV-7 cells. Exposure of DU-145 cells to a combined d -limonene and docetaxel resulted in higher ROS generation, depletion of GSH, accompanied by increased caspase activity than docetaxel alone. It also triggered a series of effects involving cytochrome c , cleavages of caspase-9, 3 and poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase, and a shift in Bad:Bcl-xL ratio in favor of apoptosis. Apoptotic effect was significantly blocked on pretreatment with N -acetylcystein, indicating that antitumor effect is initiated by ROS generation, and caspase cascades contribute to the cell death.
Conclusion: Our results show, for the first time, that d -limonene enhanced the antitumor effect of docetaxel against prostate cancer cells without being toxic to normal prostate epithelial cells. The combined beneficial effect could be through the modulation of proteins involved in mitochondrial pathway of apoptosis. d -Limonene could be used as a potent non-toxic agent to improve the treatment outcome of hormone-refractory prostate cancer with docetaxel.