Medroxyprogesterone and tamoxifen augment anti-proliferative efficacy and reduce mitochondria-toxicity of epirubicin in FM3A tumor cells in vitro


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We have shown that low doses of medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA- 2.6 μM) and tamoxifen (TAM- 270 nM) could augment the effectiveness of epirubicin in breast tumor cells. In this study, we monitored early cell kinetics (24–96 h plating and S-phase) and mitochondrial morphology during chemo-endocrine treatments to delineate the epirubicin sensitizing mechanism. S-phase fractions with radioactive thymidine uptake, plating efficacy, and transmission electron microscopic analysis were taken for 24-h periods until the 7th day after drug treatments. Despite strongly enhancing the clonogenic killing, both MPA and TAM did not affect epirubicin induced early cytotoxicity. Instead, they augmented the S-phase inhibition, which was even more pronounced for TAM. Epirubicin induced prominent swelling and crista damage of mitochondria and fragmentation of nuclei. Mitochondria were a normal size during a combination of epirubicin with either MPA- or tamoxifen treatment, despite the persistence of chromatin fragmentation and strong synergism on the clonogenic killing of breast tumor cells. Low dosage endocrine agent-induced anthracycline sensitization may be independent of mitochondrial toxicity. Further studies would be worthwhile, since the uncoupling of mitochondrial toxicity from the anti-neoplastic effect may also mean obviated cardiac toxicity in clinic.