Research Papers:

Fisetin, a phytochemical, potentiates sorafenib-induced apoptosis and abrogates tumor growth in athymic nude mice implanted with BRAF-mutated melanoma cells

Harish Chandra Pal, Ronald D. Baxter, Katherine M. Hunt, Jyoti Agarwal, Craig A. Elmets, Mohammad Athar and Farrukh Afaq _

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Oncotarget. 2015; 6:28296-28311. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.5064

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Harish Chandra Pal1, Ronald D. Baxter1, Katherine M. Hunt1, Jyoti Agarwal1, Craig A. Elmets1,2, Mohammad Athar1,2 and Farrukh Afaq1,2

1 Department of Dermatology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL, USA

2 Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL, USA

Correspondence to:

Farrukh Afaq, email:

Keywords: melanoma, fisetin, sorafenib, cell proliferation, apoptosis

Received: June 04, 2015 Accepted: July 03, 2015 Published: July 31, 2015


Melanoma is the most deadly form of cutaneous malignancy, and its incidence rates are rising worldwide. In melanoma, constitutive activation of the BRAF/MEK/ERK (MAPK) and PI3K/AKT/mTOR (PI3K) signaling pathways plays a pivotal role in cell proliferation, survival and tumorigenesis. A combination of compounds that lead to an optimal blockade of these critical signaling pathways may provide an effective strategy for prevention and treatment of melanoma. The phytochemical fisetin is known to possess anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic activities. We found that fisetin treatment inhibited PI3K signaling pathway in melanoma cells. Therefore, we investigated the effect of fisetin and sorafenib (an RAF inhibitor) alone and in combination on cell proliferation, apoptosis and tumor growth. Combination treatment (fisetin + sorafenib) more effectively reduced the growth of BRAF-mutated human melanoma cells at lower doses when compared to individual agents. In addition, combination treatment resulted in enhanced (i) apoptosis, (ii) cleavage of caspase-3 and PARP, (iii) expression of Bax and Bak, (iv) inhibition of Bcl2 and Mcl-1, and (v) inhibition of expression of PI3K, phosphorylation of MEK1/2, ERK1/2, AKT and mTOR. In athymic nude mice subcutaneously implanted with melanoma cells (A375 and SK-MEL-28), we found that combination therapy resulted in greater reduction of tumor growth when compared to individual agents. Furthermore, combination therapy was more effective than monotherapy in: (i) inhibition of proliferation and angiogenesis, (ii) induction of apoptosis, and (iii) inhibition of the MAPK and PI3K pathways in xenograft tumors. These data suggest that simultaneous inhibition of both these signaling pathways using combination of fisetin and sorafenib may serve as a therapeutic option for the management of melanoma.

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