Purpose: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the fifth most common malignancy worldwide and the third cause of global cancer mortality. Increasing evidence suggest that STAT3 is a critical mediator of oncogenic signaling in HCC and controls the expression of several genes involved in proliferation, survival, metastasis, and angiogenesis. Thus, the novel agents that can suppress STAT3 activation have potential for both prevention and treatment of HCC.
Experimental design: The effect of butein on STAT3 activation, associated protein kinases, STAT3-regulated gene products, cellular proliferation, and apoptosis was investigated. The in vivo effect of butein on the growth of human HCC xenograft tumors in male athymic nu/nu mice was also examined.
Results: We tested an agent, butein, for its ability to suppress STAT3 activation in HCC cells and nude mice model along with prospectively testing the hypothesis of STAT3 inhibition in a virtual predictive functional proteomics tumor pathway technology platform. We found that butein inhibited both constitutive and inducible STAT3 activation in HCC cells. The suppression was mediated through the inhibition of activation of upstream kinases c-Src and Janus-activated kinase 2. Butein inhibited proliferation and significantly potentiated the apoptotic effects of paclitaxel and doxorubicin in HCC cells. When administered intraperitoneally, butein inhibited the growth of human HCC xenograft tumors in male athymic nu/nu mice.
Conclusions: Overall, cumulative results from experimental and predictive studies suggest that butein exerts its antiproliferative and proapoptotic effects through suppression of STAT3 signaling in HCC both in vitro and in vivo.