Bioactive phytochemical proanthocyanidins inhibit growth of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma cells by targeting multiple signaling molecules

PLoS One. 2012;7(9):e46404. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0046404. Epub 2012 Sep 26.


Despite advances in surgical and medical therapies, approximate 50% survival rate of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) has had marginal improvement in the last 30 years. Therefore, alternative strategies are required for the management of HNSCC. Here, we report the chemotherapeutic effect of proanthocyanidins on HNSCC cells using in vitro and in vivo models. Treatment of human HNSCC cell lines from different sub-sites, such as oral cavity (SCC1), larynx (SCC5), tongue (OSC19) and pharynx (FaDu), with grape seed proanthocyanidins (GSPs) reduced their cell viability and induced cell death in a dose- and time-dependent manner. GSPs induced inhibition of cell viability was associated with: (i) G1-phase arrest, (ii) inhibition of expressions of cyclins (cyclin D1 and Cyclin D2) and cyclin-dependent kinases (Cdk), (iii) increased expression of the Cdk inhibitory proteins (Cip1/p21, Kip1/p27), enhanced binding of Cdk inhibitors to Cdks, and downregulation of E2F transcription factor. GSPs significantly (P<0.05-0.001) increased apoptosis of SCC1 and OSC19 cells with induction of Bax, reduced expression of Bcl-2, and activation of caspase-3. GSPs also reduced the expression of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), and treatment of SCC1 cells with erlotinib, an EGFR-targeting small molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitor, significantly (P<0.05-0.001) reduced cell viability and increased cell death. Dietary administration of GSPs (0.5%, w/w) in supplementation with AIN76A control diet inhibited the growth of SCC1 tumor xenografts in athymic nude mice, which was associated with: (i) inhibition of cell proliferation, (ii) induction of apoptosis of tumor xenograft cells, (iii) decreased expression of cyclins and Cdks, (iv) decreased expression of EGFR, and (v) increased expression of Cip1/p21 and Kip1/p27 proteins and their increased binding to Cdks in tumor xenograft samples. Together, these results suggest that GSPs may be a promising candidate for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / metabolism*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21 / genetics
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21 / metabolism
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p27 / genetics
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p27 / metabolism
  • ErbB Receptors / metabolism
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Proanthocyanidins / pharmacology*
  • Proanthocyanidins / therapeutic use
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • CDKN1A protein, human
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21
  • Proanthocyanidins
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p27
  • ErbB Receptors