Cancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology

, Volume 61, Issue 5, pp 727–737

Potentiation of arsenic trioxide cytotoxicity by Parthenolide and buthionine sulfoximine in murine and human leukemic cells


    • Department of Toxicology and CarcinogenesisNofer Institute of Occupational Medicine
  • Małgorzata Stańczyk
    • Department of Toxicology and CarcinogenesisNofer Institute of Occupational Medicine
  • Małgorzata Czyż
    • Department of Molecular Biology of CancerMedical University of Łódź
  • Maciej Stępnik
    • Department of Toxicology and CarcinogenesisNofer Institute of Occupational Medicine
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s00280-007-0527-3

Cite this article as:
Duechler, M., Stańczyk, M., Czyż, M. et al. Cancer Chemother Pharmacol (2008) 61: 727. doi:10.1007/s00280-007-0527-3



To possibly increase the in vitro cytotoxic activity of arsenic trioxide (ATO) by combining it with Parthenolide (PRT), a known NF-κB inhibitor and buthionine sulfoximine (BSO), an inhibitor of γ-glutamylcysteine synthetase.


Several cell lines representing various hematological malignancies were treated in vitro with the study drugs alone or in combinations. Flow cytometry was used to assess cell death rates and reative oxygen species production. Glutathione and ATP levels were determinded using a photometric and a luminometric assay, respectively. Cell death was characterised by fluorescence microscopy and DNA fragmentation analysis.


PRT increased cytotoxicity of ATO in seven out of eight cell lines. Addition of buthionine sulfoximine (BSO) further potentiated cytotoxicity of the combined treatment. When combined with PRT and BSO, clinically achievable concentrations of ATO (2.5 μM) induced cytotoxicity rates of 80–98% after 24 h. Importantly, lymphocytes from healthy donors were largely unaffected by these treatment modalities, also after growth stimulation in cell culture. N-acetylcysteine inhibited the cytotoxic effects of the triple combination. Treatment of leukemic cells with ATO, PRT and BSO rapidly depleted cells from glutathione, induced oxidative stress and decreased intracellular ATP levels. Cell death showed characteristics of necrosis presumably as a result of ATP loss.


Based on the observed selectivity towards malignant cells this combination may offer a therapeutic option applicable to different kinds of leukemia.


Arsenic trioxideParthenolideButhionine sulfoximineLeukemia therapyNecrosis

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007