Lack of effect of coenzyme q10 on doxorubicin cytotoxicity in breast cancer cell cultures

Integr Cancer Ther. 2012 Sep;11(3):243-50. doi: 10.1177/1534735412439749. Epub 2012 Apr 26.


BACKGROUND/HYPOTHESES: Doxorubicin is a standard adjuvant therapy for early-stage breast cancer, and it significantly improves disease-free and overall survival. However, 3% to 20% of breast cancer patients develop chronic cardiomyopathic changes and congestive heart failure because of doxorubicin therapy. Doxorubicin-induced cardiotoxicity is thought to be due to the increased generation of reactive oxygen species within cardiac myocyte mitochondria. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a lipid-soluble antioxidant that may protect against mitochondrial reactive oxygen species and thus prevent doxorubicin-induced cardiotoxicity. Despite the potential benefits of CoQ10 in preventing cardiotoxicity, it is not known if CoQ10 diminishes the antineoplastic effects of doxorubicin therapy.

Study design: In vitro cell culture experiments.

Methods: Breast cancer cell lines (MDA-MB-468 and BT549) were tested for their ability to uptake exogenous CoQ10 using high-performance liquid chromatography. Breast cancer cell lines were then treated with doxorubicin and a range of CoQ10 concentrations to determine the effect of CoQ10 on doxorubicin's cytotoxicity.

Results: This study demonstrated that intracellular and mitochondrial CoQ10 concentrations increased substantially as higher exogenous concentrations were administered to breast cancer cells. CoQ10 had no effect on the ability of doxorubicin to induce apoptosis or inhibit growth or colony formation in both the cell lines tested when applied over a wide dose range, which encompassed typical basal plasma levels and plasma levels above those typically achieved by supplemented patients.

Conclusion: The clinical testing of CoQ10 as a supplement to prevent doxorubicin-induced cardiotoxicity requires confidence that it does not decrease the efficacy of chemotherapy. These results support the hypothesis that CoQ10 does not alter the antineoplastic properties of doxorubicin. Further in vivo studies, as well as combination chemotherapy studies, would be reassuring before a large-scale clinical testing of CoQ10 as a cardioprotective drug.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibiotics, Antineoplastic / adverse effects
  • Antibiotics, Antineoplastic / pharmacology*
  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage
  • Antioxidants / pharmacokinetics
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Doxorubicin / adverse effects
  • Doxorubicin / pharmacology*
  • Drug Interactions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Ubiquinone / administration & dosage
  • Ubiquinone / analogs & derivatives*
  • Ubiquinone / pharmacokinetics
  • Ubiquinone / pharmacology


  • Antibiotics, Antineoplastic
  • Antioxidants
  • Ubiquinone
  • Doxorubicin
  • coenzyme Q10