Sulforaphane promotes apoptosis, and inhibits proliferation and self-renewal of nasopharyngeal cancer cells by targeting STAT signal through miRNA-124-3p

Biomed Pharmacother. 2018 Jul;103:473-481. doi: 10.1016/j.biopha.2018.03.121. Epub 2018 Apr 24.


Sulforaphane (SF) exhibits an anti-tumor effect in a variety of cancers, but little is known about its function in nasopharyngeal carcinoma. SF could decrease the expression of stem cell markers, β-catenin, Nanog, c-Myc, Oct3/4 and Sox2 in nasopharyngeal cancer cells (HONE1 and SUN1), and inhibit the formation of tumor spheres. Moreover, SF inhibits proliferation and induces apoptosis decreasing the stemness of nasopharyngeal cancer cells through a mechanism related to STAT3 signaling in vitro. We found that SF inhibits total STAT3 expression level and STAT3 phosphorylation (troy 704 and troy 705) by upregulation of miRNA-124-3p. Our results provide the evidence for discovering the novel drugs against nasopharyngeal carcinoma, and potential drugs targeting STAT3 signaling pathway.

Keywords: Nasopharyngeal Cancer; STAT signal; Self-renewal; Sulforaphane; miRNA-124-3p.

MeSH terms

  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / physiology
  • Cell Self Renewal / drug effects*
  • Cell Self Renewal / physiology
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / physiology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Delivery Systems / methods
  • Humans
  • Isothiocyanates / administration & dosage*
  • MicroRNAs / agonists
  • MicroRNAs / biosynthesis
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / cytology
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor / antagonists & inhibitors
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor / biosynthesis*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Isothiocyanates
  • MIRN124-3 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor
  • STAT3 protein, human
  • sulforafan