Emetine Synergizes with Cisplatin to Enhance Anti-Cancer Efficacy against Lung Cancer Cells

Int J Mol Sci. 2019 Nov 25;20(23):5914. doi: 10.3390/ijms20235914.


Cisplatin is still the primary therapeutic choice for advanced lung cancers without driver mutations. The occurrence of cisplatin resistance is a major clinical problem in lung cancer treatment. The natural extracted agent emetine reportedly has anticancer effects. This study aimed to explore the possible role of emetine in cisplatin resistance. We used cell viability, Western blot, and Wnt reporter assays to show that emetine suppresses proliferation, β-catenin expression, and Wnt/β-catenin signaling in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The synergism of emetine and cisplatin was assessed by constructing isobolograms and calculating combination index (CI) values using the Chou-Talalay method. Emetine effectively synergized with cisplatin to suppress the proliferation of cancer cells. Furthermore, nuclear β-catenin and cancer stem cell-related markers were upregulated in the cisplatin-resistant subpopulation of CL1-0 cells. Emetine enhanced the anticancer efficacy of cisplatin and synergized with cisplatin in the cisplatin-resistant subpopulation of CL1-0 cells. Taken together, these data suggest that emetine could suppress the growth of NSCLC cells through the Wnt/β-catenin pathway and contribute to a synergistic effect in combination with cisplatin.

Keywords: Wnt/β-catenin; cisplatin resistance; emetine; lung cancer.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Apoptosis
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / pathology
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cisplatin / pharmacology*
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / drug effects*
  • Drug Synergism*
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Emetics / pharmacology
  • Emetine / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Lung Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Emetics
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Cisplatin
  • Emetine