Fisetin and 5-fluorouracil: Effective Combination for PIK3CA-mutant Colorectal Cancer

Int J Cancer. 2019 Dec 1;145(11):3022-3032. doi: 10.1002/ijc.32367. Epub 2019 May 10.


The normal colon epithelium is transformed into its neoplastic counterpart through a series of genetic alterations in driver genes including activating mutations in PIK3CA. Treatment often involves surgery followed by 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) based therapy, which has limited efficiency and serious side effects. We sought to determine whether fisetin, a dietary flavonoid, alone or in combination with 5-FU affected tumorigenesis in the mammalian intestine. We first determined the effect of fisetin, 5-FU or their combination on PIK3CA-mutant and PIK3CA wild-type colon cancer cells by assessing cell viability, colony formation, apoptosis and effects on PI3K/AKT/mTOR signaling. Treatment of PIK3CA-mutant cells with fisetin and 5-FU reduced the expression of PI3K, phosphorylation of AKT, mTOR, its target proteins, constituents of mTOR signaling complex and this treatment increased the phosphorylation of AMPKα. We then determined whether fisetin and 5-FU together or singly affected tumorigenesis in ApcMin/+ mice that also express constitutively active PI3K in the distal small intestine and colon. Tumor incidence was markedly lower in fisetin-treated FC1 3K1 ApcMin/+ mice that also express constitutively active PI3K in distal small intestine and colon, as compared to control animals, indicating that fisetin is a strong preventive agent. In addition, the combination of fisetin and 5-FU also reduced the total number of intestinal tumors. Fisetin could be used as a preventive agent plus an adjuvant with 5-FU for the treatment of PIK3CA-mutant colorectal cancer.

Keywords: PIK3CA; 5-fluorouracil; PI3K/AKT/mTOR signaling; colorectal cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / pharmacology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Class I Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / genetics*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / genetics
  • Drug Synergism
  • Flavonoids / administration & dosage*
  • Flavonoids / pharmacology
  • Fluorouracil / administration & dosage*
  • Fluorouracil / pharmacology
  • HCT116 Cells
  • HT29 Cells
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mutation*
  • Phosphorylation / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • Flavonoids
  • Class I Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • PIK3CA protein, human
  • fisetin
  • Fluorouracil