Sequence- and schedule-dependent enhancement of zoledronic acid induced apoptosis by doxorubicin in breast and prostate cancer cells



We investigated whether the combination of zoledronic acid and doxorubicin induced apoptosis of breast and prostate cancer cell lines, and if synergistic interaction was present. We investigated whether the levels of cell death altered depending on the sequence in which the drugs were administered and the possible mechanism of action responsible for the increased cell death following combined treatments. Breast and prostate cancer cells were treated with zoledronic acid alone, doxorubicin alone, or drugs in sequence (doxorubicin before, after, or with zoledronic acid), and the levels of apoptotic death were determined by evaluation of nuclear morphology. We found that clinically relevant concentrations of doxorubicin and zoledronic acid induced sequence- and schedule-dependent apoptosis of breast and prostate cancer cells. For maximal apoptosis, cells had to be pretreated for 24 hr with doxorubicin before immediate treatment with zoledronic acid for 1 hr. This observation is a characteristic feature of cell cycle phase-specific synergistic effect. Replacing zoledronic acid with the nonnitrogen-containing bisphosphonate clodronate did not induce increased apoptosis. Induction of apoptosis was mainly via inhibition of the mevalonate (MVA) pathway, as addition of the MVA pathway intermediary geranylgeraniol inhibited the induction of apoptosis by doxorubicin followed by zoledronic acid. In conclusion, combined treatment of breast and prostate cancer cell lines with clinically relevant doses of doxorubicin and zoledronic acid induces apoptosis in a synergistic fashion. These findings may have relevance for the clinical setting, particularly breast cancer patients receiving these drugs in the adjuvant setting.