Cadmium modifies the cell cycle and apoptotic profiles of human breast cancer cells treated with 5-fluorouracil

Int J Mol Sci. 2013 Aug 12;14(8):16600-16. doi: 10.3390/ijms140816600.


Industrialisation, the proximity of factories to cities, and human work activities have led to a disproportionate use of substances containing heavy metals, such as cadmium (Cd), which may have deleterious effects on human health. Carcinogenic effects of Cd and its relationship with breast cancer, among other tumours, have been reported. 5-Fluorouracil (5-FU) is a fluoropyrimidine anticancer drug used to treat solid tumours of the colon, breast, stomach, liver, and pancreas. The purpose of this work was to study the effects of Cd on cell cycle, apoptosis, and gene and protein expression in MCF-7 breast cancer cells treated with 5-FU. Cd altered the cell cycle profile, and its effects were greater when used either alone or in combination with 5-FU compared with 5-FU alone. Cd significantly suppressed apoptosis of MCF-7 cells pre-treated with 5-FU. Regarding gene and protein expression, bcl2 expression was mainly upregulated by all treatments involving Cd. The expression of caspase 8 and caspase 9 was decreased by most of the treatments and at all times evaluated. C-myc expression was increased by all treatments involving Cd, especially 5-FU plus Cd at the half time of treatment. Cd plus 5-FU decreased cyclin D1 and increased cyclin A1 expression. In conclusion, our results indicate that exposure to Cd blocks the anticancer effects of 5-FU in MCF-7 cells. These results could have important clinical implications in patients treated with 5-FU-based therapies and who are exposed to high levels of Cd.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antimetabolites / pharmacology
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Cadmium Chloride / pharmacology*
  • Caspase 8 / biosynthesis
  • Caspase 9 / biosynthesis
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cyclin A1 / biosynthesis
  • Cyclin D1 / biosynthesis
  • Drug Interactions*
  • Female
  • Fluorouracil / pharmacology*
  • G1 Phase Cell Cycle Checkpoints / drug effects
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Humans
  • MCF-7 Cells
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / biosynthesis
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / biosynthesis


  • Antimetabolites
  • CCNA1 protein, human
  • CCND1 protein, human
  • Cyclin A1
  • MYC protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc
  • Cyclin D1
  • Caspase 8
  • Caspase 9
  • Cadmium Chloride
  • Fluorouracil