Lifespan extension and cancer prevention in HER-2/neu transgenic mice treated with low intermittent doses of rapamycin

Cancer Biol Ther. 2014 May;15(5):586-92. doi: 10.4161/cbt.28164. Epub 2014 Feb 20.


Target of Rapamycin (TOR) is involved in cellular and organismal aging. Rapamycin extends lifespan and delays cancer in mice. It is important to determine the minimum effective dose and frequency of its administration that still extends lifespan and prevents cancer. Previously we tested 1.5 mg/kg of rapamycin given subcutaneously 6 times per two weeks followed by a two-week break (1.5 × 6/bi-weekly schedule: total of 6 injections during a 4-week period). This intermittent treatment prolonged lifespan and delayed cancer in cancer-prone female FVB/N HER-2/neu mice. Here, the dose was decreased from 1.5 mg/kg to 0.45 mg/kg per injection. This treatment was started at the age of 2 months (group Rap-2), 4 months (Rap-4), and 5 months (Rap-5). Three control groups received the solvent from the same ages. Rapamycin significantly delayed cancer and decreased tumor burden in Rap-2 and Rap-5 groups, increased mean lifespan in Rap-4 and Rap-5 groups, and increased maximal lifespan in Rap-2 and Rap-5 groups. In Rap-4 group, mean lifespan extension was achieved without significant cancer prevention. The complex relationship between life-extension and cancer-prevention depends on both the direct effect of rapamycin on cancer cells and its anti-aging effect on the organism, which in turn prevents cancer indirectly. We conclude that total doses of rapamycin that are an order of magnitude lower than standard total doses can detectably extend life span in cancer-prone mice.

Keywords: anti-aging agents; cancer; longevity; rapalogs.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Carcinogenesis / drug effects
  • Female
  • Longevity / drug effects*
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Animal / pathology
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Animal / physiopathology
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Animal / prevention & control*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / genetics*
  • Sirolimus / therapeutic use*


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Erbb2 protein, mouse
  • Receptor, ErbB-2
  • Sirolimus