Background: Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in Indian females. The present treatment regime for cervical cancer is radiotherapy based on DNA crosslinking agent like cisplatin which is associated with various side effects. Berberine, a chemopreventive agent, is a natural compound extracted from Berberidaceae family that allows suppression and retardation of carcinogenesis and effectively inhibits inflammation. The objective of this study was to compare the cisplatin-based radiosensitization with a berberine/cisplatin-induced radiosensitization.

Methods: HeLa, SiHa, and Ca Ski cells were cultured in DMEM medium supplemented in 10% FBS in a humidified atmosphere of 95% air and 5% CO2 at 37°C and were treated with 75 μM berberine/10 μg cisplatin and 10 μg cisplatin alone for 24 hrs followed by 2 Gy radiation dose from radiation source. Cells which were not sensitized with berberine/cisplatin were also treated with variable radiation doses. Apoptosis was measured by flow cytometery, protein expression was assessed using Western blotting, and caspase activity was measured using synthetic substrates.

Results: Treatment of cervical cancer cells with berberine/cisplatin combination dose followed by radiation resulted in increased apoptosis in comparison to cisplatin sensitization and exposure to radiation. The combination of berberine/cisplatin resulted in increased expression of proapoptotic Bax, p73 and downregulation of antiapoptotic Bcl XI, inflammatory Cox 2, cyclin D1 and effective reduction in activity of telomerase in comparison to cisplatin-based radiotherapy. The combination dose also resulted in increased activation of caspase-9 and -3.

Conclusion: The present study indicates that berberine has the potential to make cervical cancer therapies more effective and safer with minimization of side effects which are associated with generation of excessive reactive oxygen species in present cisplatin-based therapy regime.

Citation Format: {Authors}. {Abstract title} [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the Second AACR International Conference on Frontiers in Basic Cancer Research; 2011 Sep 14-18; San Francisco, CA. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2011;71(18 Suppl):Abstract nr C38.