Metformin, an extensively used and well-tolerated drug for treating individuals with type 2 diabetes, has recently gained significant attention as an anticancer drug. On the other hand, paclitaxel (taxol) is a new antineoplastic drug that has shown promise in the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). High expression levels of excision repair cross-complementary 1 (ERCC1) in cancers have been positively associated with the DNA repair capacity and a poor prognosis in NSCLC patients treated with platinum-containing chemotherapy. In this current study, paclitaxel was found to increase phosphorylation of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) kinase 3/6 (MKK3/6)-p38 MAPK as well as protein and mRNA levels of ERCC1 in H1650 and H1703 cells. Moreover, paclitaxel-induced ERCC1 protein and mRNA levels significantly decreased via the downregulation of p38 activity by either a p38 MAPK inhibitor SB202190 or p38 knockdown with specific small interfering RNA (siRNA). Specific inhibition of ERCC1 with siRNA was found to enhance the paclitaxel-induced cytotoxic effect and growth inhibition. Furthermore, metformin was able to not only decrease the paclitaxel-induced p38 MAPK-mediated ERCC1 expression, but also augment the cytotoxic effect induced by paclitaxel. Finally, expression of constitutive activate MKK6 or HA-p38 MAPK vectors in lung cancer cells was able to abrogate ERCC1 downregulation by metformin and paclitaxel as well as cell viability and DNA repair capacity. Overall, our results suggest that inhibition of the p38 MAPK signaling by metformin coupled with paclitaxel therapy in human NSCLC cells may be a clinically useful combination, which however will require further validation.

Citation Format: Yun-Wei Lin, Sheng-Chieh Tseng, Yu-Ching Huang, Hsien-Chun Chiu, Huang-Jen Chen, Shao-Hsing Weng, Yi-Jhen Huang, Ting-Yu Wo. Role of ERCC1 in metformin enhancing paclitaxel-induced cytotoxicity. [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 104th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research; 2013 Apr 6-10; Washington, DC. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2013;73(8 Suppl):Abstract nr 1283. doi:10.1158/1538-7445.AM2013-1283