Electronic cigarette aerosols alter the expression of cisplatin transporters and increase drug resistance in oral cancer cells

Sci Rep. 2021 Jan 19;11(1):1821. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-81148-0.


Tobacco smoking is the leading preventable cause of cancer. Moreover, continued smoking during cancer therapy reduces overall survival. Aware of the negative consequences of tobacco smoking and the challenges of smoking cessation, cancer patients are inquiring whether they should switch to electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes). To obtain evidence-based data to inform this decision, we examined the effects of e-cigarette aerosol exposure on cisplatin resistance in head and neck cancer cells. Our results show that cancer cells exposed to e-cigarette aerosol extracts and treated with cisplatin have a significant decrease in cell death, increase in viability, and increase in clonogenic survival when compared to non-exposed cells. Moreover, exposure to e-cigarette aerosol extracts increased the concentration of cisplatin needed to induce a 50% reduction in cell growth (IC50) in a nicotine-independent manner. Tobacco smoke extracts induced similar increases in cisplatin resistance. Changes in the expression of drug influx and efflux transporters, rather than activation of cell growth-promoting pathways or DNA damage repair, contribute to e-cigarette induced cisplatin resistance. These results suggest that like combustible tobacco, e-cigarette use might increase chemotherapy resistance, and emphasize the urgent need for rigorous evaluation of e-cigarettes health effects to ensure evidence-based public health policies.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols / toxicity*
  • Cell Death / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cisplatin / metabolism*
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / drug effects*
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems*
  • Humans
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mouth Neoplasms / pathology*


  • Aerosols
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Cisplatin