A herbal formula (SL) comprising Sophorae Flos and Lonicerae Japonicae Flos was traditionally used to treat melanoma. Constitutively active signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) has been proposed as a therapeutic target in melanoma. Here we investigated whether an ethanolic extract of SL (SLE) exerted anti-melanoma activities by inhibiting STAT3 signaling. B16F10 allograft model, A375 and B16F10 cells were employed to assess the in vivo and in vitro anti-melanoma activities of SLE. A375 cells stably expressing STAT3C, a constitutively active STAT3 mutant, were used to determine the role of STAT3 signaling in SLE's anti-melanoma effects. Intragastric administration of SLE (1.2 g/ kg) potently inhibited melanoma growth in mice and inhibited STAT3 phosphorylation in the tumors. In cultured cells, SLE dramatically reduced cell viability, induced apoptosis, suppressed migration and invasion, and restrained STAT3 activation and nuclear localization. STAT3C overexpression in A375 cells diminished SLE's effects on cell viability, apoptosis and invasion. Collectively, SLE exerted potent anti-melanoma effects partially by inhibiting STAT3 signaling. This study provides pharmacological justification for the traditional use of this formula in treating melanoma, and suggests that SLE has the potential to be developed as a modern alternative and/or complimentary agent for melanoma treatment and prevention.
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