Pancreatic cancer is an aggressive malignancy and is unresponsive to conventional chemotherapies. Parthenolide, a sesquiterpene lactone isolated from feverfew, has exhibited potent anticancer effects against various cancers. The purpose of this report was to investigate the effect and underlying mechanism of parthenolide in human pancreatic cancer Panc-1 and BxPC3 cells. The results demonstrated that parthenolide suppressed the growth and induced apoptosis of Panc-1 and BxPC3 pancreatic cancer cells with the half maximal inhibitory concentration (IC50) ranging between 7 and 9 μM after 24 h of treatment. Significant autophagy was induced by parthenolide treatment in pancreatic cancer cells. Parthenolide treatment concentration-dependently increased the percentage of autophagic cells and significantly increased the expression levels of p62/SQSTM1, Beclin 1, and LC3II in Panc-1 cells. Punctate LC3II staining confirmed autophagy. Furthermore, inhibiting autophagy by chloroquine, 3-methyladenine, or LC3II siRNA significantly blocked parthenolide-induced apoptosis, suggesting that parthenolide induced apoptosis through autophagy in this study. In conclusion, these studies established that parthenolide inhibits pancreatic cell growth by autophagy-mediated apoptosis. Data of the present study suggest that parthenolide can serve as a potential chemotherapeutic agent for pancreatic cancer.
Keywords: P62; apoptosis; autophagy; cleaved PAPRP; pancreatic cancer; parthenolide.