Berberine sensitizes mutliple human cancer cells to the anticancer effects of doxorubicin in vitro

Oncol Lett. 2012 Jun;3(6):1263-1267. doi: 10.3892/ol.2012.644. Epub 2012 Mar 14.


The clinical use of doxorubicin (DOX), a potent antineoplastic agent, is limited by its serious side-effects, which include acute and chronic cumulative dose-related cardiotoxicity. Berberine (BER), a botanical alkaloid, has been reported to possess cardioprotective and antitumor effects. The 3-(4,5-dimethyl-2-thiazolyl)-2,5-diphenyl-2-tetrazolium bromide (MTT) assay was used to detect the cell viability of A549, HeLa and HepG2 cells after each cell line was treated with DOX, BER or a combination of DOX and BER for 24 h. Apoptosis was evaluated by acridine orange staining. The results showed that BER and DOX exhibited dose-dependent inhibitory effects on A549 and HeLa cells which were likely mediated by inducing apoptosis. The same result was found in the combination group. Isobologram illustration and combination index (CI) analyses revealed that the combination of DOX and BER generates synergistic effects in A549 (CI=0.61) and HeLa (CI=0.73) cells. These findings indicate that BER sensitizes cells to the anticancer effects of DOX.