Alpha lipoic acid inhibits proliferation and epithelial mesenchymal transition of thyroid cancer cells

Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2016 Jan 5;419:113-23. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2015.10.005. Epub 2015 Oct 14.


The naturally occurring short-chain fatty acid, α-lipoic acid (ALA) is a powerful antioxidant which is clinically used for treatment of diabetic neuropathy. Recent studies suggested the possibility of ALA as a potential anti-cancer agent, because it could activate adenosine monophosphate activated protein kinase (AMPK) and inhibit transforming growth factor-β (TGFβ) pathway. In this study, we evaluate the effects of ALA on thyroid cancer cell proliferation, migration and invasion. We performed in vitro cell proliferation analysis using BCPAP, HTH-83, CAL-62 and FTC-133 cells. ALA suppressed thyroid cancer cell proliferation through activation of AMPK and subsequent down-regulation of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR)-S6 signaling pathway. Low-dose ALA, which had minimal effects on cell proliferation, also decreased cell migration and invasion of BCPAP, CAL-62 and HTH-83 cells. ALA inhibited epithelial mesenchymal transition (EMT) evidently by increase of E-cadherin and decreases of activated β-catenin, vimentin, snail, and twist in these cells. ALA suppressed TGFβ production and inhibited induction of p-Smad2 and twist by TGFβ1 or TGFβ2. These findings indicate that ALA reduces cancer cell migration and invasion through suppression of TGFβ production and inhibition of TGFβ signaling pathways in thyroid cancer cells. ALA also significantly suppressed tumor growth in mouse xenograft model using BCPAP and FTC-133 cells. This is the first study to show anti-cancer effect of ALA on thyroid cancer cells. ALA could be a potential therapeutic agent for treatment of advanced thyroid cancer, possibly as an adjuvant therapy with other systemic therapeutic agents.

Keywords: Alpha lipoic acid; Epithelial–mesenchymal transition; Transforming growth factor beta.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases / genetics
  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism
  • Thioctic Acid / administration & dosage*
  • Thioctic Acid / pharmacology
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / genetics
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / genetics
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Thioctic Acid
  • MTOR protein, human
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases