Research Papers:

Doxycycline reverses epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition and suppresses the proliferation and metastasis of lung cancer cells

Yuan Qin _, Qiang Zhang, Shan Lee, Wei-long Zhong, Yan-rong Liu, Hui-juan Liu, Dong Zhao, Shuang Chen, Ting Xiao, Jing Meng, Xue-shuang Jing, Jing Wang, Bo Sun, Ting-ting Dai, Cheng Yang, Tao Sun and Hong-gang Zhou

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Oncotarget. 2015; 6:40667-40679. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.5842

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Yuan Qin1,2,*, Qiang Zhang1,2,*, Shan Lee1,2,*, Wei-long Zhong1,2,*, Yan-rong Liu2, Hui-juan Liu2, Dong Zhao1,2, Shuang Chen2, Ting Xiao1,2, Jing Meng1,2, Xue-shuang Jing2, Jing Wang2, Bo Sun2, Ting-ting Dai2, Cheng Yang1,2, Tao Sun1,2, Hong-gang Zhou1,2

1State Key Laboratory of Medicinal Chemical Biology and College of Pharmacy, Nankai University, Tianjin, China

2Tianjin Key Laboratory of Molecular Drug Research, Tianjin International Joint Academy of Biomedicine, Tianjin, China

*These authors have contributed equally to this work

Correspondence to:

Tao Sun, e-mail: [email protected]

Hong-gang Zhou, e-mail: [email protected]

Keywords: doxycycline, antitumor, EMT, metastasis, lung cancer

Received: July 11, 2015     Accepted: September 24, 2015     Published: October 14, 2015


The gelatinase inhibitor doxycycline is the prototypical antitumor antibiotic. We investigated the effects of doxycycline on the migration, invasion, and metastasis of human lung cancer cell lines and in a mouse model. We also measured the effect of doxycycline on the transcription of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) markers, and used immunohistochemistry to determine whether EMT reversal was associated with doxycycline inhibition. Doxycycline dose-dependently inhibited proliferation, migration, and invasion of NCI-H446 human small cell lung cancer cells. It also suppressed tumor growth from NCI-H446 and A549 lung cancer cell xenografts without altering body weight, inhibited Lewis lung carcinoma cell migration, and prolonged survival. The activities of the transcription factors Twist1/2, SNAI1/2, AP1, NF-κB, and Stat3 were suppressed by doxycycline, which reversed EMT and inhibited signal transduction, thereby suppressing tumor growth and metastasis. Our data demonstrate functional targeting of transcription factors by doxycycline to reverse EMT and suppress tumor proliferation and metastasis. Thus, doxycycline selectively targets malignant tumors and reduces its metastatic potential with less cytotoxicity in lung cancer patients.

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