Artesunate sensitizes ovarian cancer cells to cisplatin by downregulating RAD51

Cancer Biol Ther. 2015;16(10):1548-56. doi: 10.1080/15384047.2015.1071738. Epub 2015 Jul 15.


Artesunate, a semi-synthetic derivative of arteminisin originally developed for the treatment of malaria, has recently been shown to possess antitumor properties. One of the cytotoxic effects of artesunate on cancer cells is mediated by induction of oxidative stress and DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs). We report here that in addition to inducing oxidative stress and DSBs, artesunate can also downregulate RAD51 and impair DSB repair in ovarian cancer cells. We observed that the formation of RAD51 foci and homologous recombination repair (HRR) were significantly reduced in artesunate-treated cells. As a consequence, artesunate and cisplatin synergistically induced DSBs and inhibited the clonogenic formation of ovarian cancer cells. Ectopic expression of RAD51 was able to rescue the increased chemosensitivity conferred by artesunate, confirming that the chemosensitizing effect of artesuante is at least partially mediated by the downregulation of RAD51. Our results indicated that artesunatecan compromise the repair of DSBs in ovarian cancer cells, and thus could be employed as a sensitizing agent in chemotherapy.

Keywords: RAD51; artesunate; chemosensitization; homologous recombination repair; ovarian cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Artemisinins / administration & dosage
  • Artemisinins / therapeutic use*
  • Artesunate
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cisplatin / administration & dosage
  • Cisplatin / pharmacology
  • Down-Regulation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Rad51 Recombinase / genetics*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species


  • Artemisinins
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Artesunate
  • Rad51 Recombinase
  • Cisplatin