Sorafenib is effective in treating hepatoma, but most patients develop resistance to it. STAT3 signaling has been implicated in sorafenib resistance. Artesunate (ART) and 20(R)-ginsenoside Rg3 (Rg3) have anti-hepatoma effects and can inhibit STAT3 signaling in cancer cells. This study aimed to evaluate the effects of Rg3 in combination with ART (Rg3-plus-ART) in overcoming sorafenib resistance, and to examine the involvement of STAT3 signaling in these effects.
Sorafenib-resistant HepG2 cells (HepG2-SR) were used to evaluate the in vitro anti-hepatoma effects of Rg3-plus-ART. A HepG2-SR hepatoma-bearing BALB/c-nu/nu mouse model was used to assess the in vivo anti-hepatoma effects of Rg3-plus-ART. CCK-8 assays and Annexin V-FITC/PI double staining were used to examine cell proliferation and apoptosis, respectively. Immunoblotting was employed to examine protein levels. ROS generation was examined by measuring DCF-DA fluorescence.
Rg3-plus-ART synergistically reduced viability of, and evoked apoptosis in HepG2-SR cells, and suppressed HepG2-SR tumor growth in mice. Mechanistic studies revealed that Rg3-plus-ART inhibited activation/phosphorylation of Src and STAT3 in HepG2-SR cultures and tumors. The combination also decreased the STAT3 nuclear level and induced ROS production in HepG2-SR cultures. Furthermore, over-activation of STAT3 or removal of ROS diminished the anti-proliferative effects of Rg3-plus-ART, and removal of ROS diminished Rg3-plus-ART's inhibitory effects on STAT3 activation in HepG2-SR cells.
Rg3-plus-ART overcomes sorafenib resistance in experimental models, and inhibition of Src/STAT3 signaling and modulation of ROS/STAT3 signaling contribute to the underlying mechanisms. This study provides a pharmacological basis for developing Rg3-plus-ART into a novel modality for treating sorafenib-resistant hepatoma.
Scopus Subject Areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)
- Complementary and alternative medicine
- Ginsenoside Rg3
- Sorafenib resistance
- STAT3 signaling