Department of Thoracic Surgery, National Cancer Center/National Clinical Research Center for Cancer/Cancer Hospital, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College, Beijing 100021, China. Electronic address: [Email]
Natural products derived from herbal medicines have become a major focus of anti-cancer drug discovery studies. Acetyl-macrocalin B (A-macB) is an ent-diterpenoid isolated from Isodon silvatica. This study aimed to examine the effect and molecular action of A-macB in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) and explore possible drug synergistic modalities. A-macB induced cellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation, initiated the p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathway, and triggered the caspase-9-dependent apoptosis cascade in ESCC cells. The ROS scavenger N-acetylcysteine (NAC) and the specific p38 inhibitor SB203580 reversed the effects of A-macB on the p38 network and thus rescued ESCC cells from apoptosis. The cellular ROS increase was at least partially due to the suppression of glutathione-S-transferase P1 (GSTP1) by A-macB. A-macB also upregulated the Chk1/Chk2-Cdc25C/Cdc2/Cyclin B1 axis to induce G2/M phase arrest. The cell growth inhibition induced by A-macB was further enhanced by AZD7762, a specific Chk1/Chk2 inhibitor, with a combination index (CI) of <1. Moreover, A-macB efficiently suppressed xenograft growth without inducing significant toxicity, and AZD7762 potentiated the effects of A-macB in the suppression of tumor growth in vivo. Taken together, A-macB is a promising lead compound for ESCC and exerts synergistic anti-cancer effects with AZD7762.