Effects of local anesthetics on breast cancer cell viability and migration

BMC Cancer. 2018 Jun 19;18(1):666. doi: 10.1186/s12885-018-4576-2.


Background: Breast cancer accounts for nearly a quarter of all cancers in women worldwide, and more than 90% of women diagnosed with breast cancer undergo mastectomy or breast-conserving surgery. Retrospective clinical studies have suggested that use of regional anesthesia leads to improved patient outcomes. Laboratory studies have reported that breast cancer cells are inhibited by some local anesthetics at millimolar concentration. Here, we present a comprehensive analysis of the effects of six common local anesthetics on two human breast cancer cell lines. We used concentrations ranging from those corresponding to plasma levels during regional block by local anesthetic (plasma concentration) to those corresponding to direct infiltration of local anesthetic.

Methods: Human breast cancer cell lines, MDA-MB-231 and MCF7, were incubated with each of six local anesthetics (lidocaine, mepivacaine, ropivacaine, bupivacaine, levobupivacaine, and chloroprocaine) (10 μM ~ 10 mM) for 6 to 72 h. Assays for cell viability, cytotoxicity, migration, and cell cycle were performed.

Results: High concentrations (> 1 mM) of local anesthetics applied to either MDA-MB-231 or MCF7 cells for 48 h significantly inhibited cell viability and induced cytotoxicity. At plasma concentrations (~ 10 μM) for 72 h, none of the local anesthetics affected cell viability or migration in either cell line. However, at 10 × plasma concentrations, 72-h exposure to bupivacaine, levobupivacaine or chloroprocaine inhibited the viability of MDA-MB-231 cells by > 40% (p < 0.001). Levobupivacaine also inhibited the viability of MCF7 cells by 50% (p < 0.001). None of the local anesthetics affected the viability of a non-cancerous breast cell line, MCF10A. MDA-MB-231 cell migration was inhibited by 10 × plasma concentrations of levobupivacaine, ropivacaine or chloroprocaine and MCF7 cell migration was inhibited by mepivacaine and levobupivacaine (p < 0.05). Cell cycle analysis showed that the local anesthetics arrest MDA-MB-231 cells in the S phase at both 1 × and 10 × plasma concentrations.

Conclusions: Local anesthetics at high concentrations significantly inhibited breast cancer cell survival. At 10 × plasma concentrations, the effect of local anesthetics on cancer cell viability and migration depended on the exposure time, specific local anesthetic, specific measurement endpoint and specific cell line.

Keywords: Breast Cancer cells; Cell cycle; Cell migration; Cell viability; Local anesthetics.

MeSH terms

  • Anesthetics, Local / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Breast Neoplasms*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement / drug effects*
  • Cell Survival / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Humans


  • Anesthetics, Local