Platelets increase survival of adenocarcinoma cells challenged with anticancer drugs: mechanisms and implications for chemoresistance

Br J Pharmacol. 2012 Oct;167(4):787-804. doi: 10.1111/j.1476-5381.2012.01991.x.


Background and purpose: Cancer cells grow without the restraints of feedback control mechanisms, leading to increased cancer cell survival. The treatment of cancer is often complicated by the lack of response to chemotherapy leading to chemoresistance and persistent survival of tumour cells. In this work we studied the role of platelets in chemotherapy-induced cancer cell death and survival.

Experimental approach: Human adenocarcinoma cells, colonic (Caco-2) and ovarian (59 M) cells, were incubated with 5-fluorouracil (1-300 µg·mL(-1) ) or paclitaxel (1-200 µg·mL(-1) ) in the presence or absence of platelets (1.5 × 10(8) mL(-1) ) for 1, 24 or 72 h. Following incubation, cancer cells were harvested and cell survival/death was assayed using flow cytometry, Western blotting, real-time PCR, TaqMan® Gene Expression Assays and proteomics.

Key results: Human platelets increased the survival of colonic and ovarian adenocarcinoma cells treated with two standard anticancer drugs, 5-fluorouracil and paclitaxel. In the presence of platelets, cancer cells up-regulated anti-apoptotic and down-regulated pro-apoptotic genes, increased the number of cells in the synthesis of DNA and decreased the number in the quiescent phase, increased expression of cyclins, DNA repair proteins and MAPKs. The analysis of platelet-Caco-2 secretome demonstrated the release of the chemokine RANTES, thrombospondin-1, TGF-β and clusterin. Finally, human recombinant RANTES and thrombospondin-1 improved survival of Caco-2 cells challenged with paclitaxel.

Conclusions and implications: These data demonstrate that platelets increase adenocarcinoma cells survival, proliferation and chemoresistance to standard anticancer drugs. Modulating cancer cell-platelet interactions may offer a new strategy to improve the efficacy of chemotherapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / drug therapy*
  • Adenocarcinoma / metabolism
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Blood Platelets*
  • Caco-2 Cells
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Coculture Techniques
  • DNA Repair
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm*
  • Fluorouracil / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Necrosis / chemically induced
  • Paclitaxel / pharmacology


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • Paclitaxel
  • Fluorouracil