Malignant melanoma is one the most aggressive types of cancer and its incidence has gradually increased in the last years, accounting for about 75% of skin cancer deaths. This poor prognosis results from the tumor resistance to conventional drugs mainly by deregulation of apoptotic pathways. The aim of this work was to investigate the cell death mechanism induced by α-pinene and its therapeutic application. Our results demonstrated that α-pinene was able to induce apoptosis evidenced by early disruption of the mitochondrial potential, production of reactive oxygen species, increase in caspase-3 activity, heterochromatin aggregation, DNA fragmentation and exposure of phosphatidyl serine on the cell surface. Most importantly, this molecule was very effective in the treatment of experimental metastatic melanoma reducing the number of lung tumor nodules. This is the first report on the apoptotic and antimetastatic activity of isolated α-pinene.
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