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Benzyl Isothiocyanate (BITC) induces apoptosis in ovarian cancer cells in vitro
Satyan Kalkunte, Narasimha Swamy, Don S. Dizon and Laurent Brard

Advanced ovarian cancer (OC) is not curable by surgery alone and chemotherapy is essential for its treatment. Isothiocyanates have been shown to inhibit carcinogen-induced tumorigenesis in animal models, yet no efforts have been made to determine their therapeutic potential in OC. In the present study, we investigated the mechanism of the antiproliferative and apoptotic activity of benzyl isothiocyanate (BITC) in OC. BITC inhibited the proliferation of OC cells and induced apoptosis in OC cells. Apoptosis was induced by a strong activation of caspase-3 and -9, and cleavage of PARP-1. However, caspase-8 was not activated by BITC. Cytotoxic effects of BITC were reversed by the inhibition caspase-3 and -9 specific inhibitors. BITC showed a concentration dependent decrease in the levels of Bcl-2 with a concomitant increase in Bax levels. In addition, BITC activated proapoptotic signaling by phosphorylation JNK1/2 and p38 while simultaneously inhibiting survival signaling mediated by ERK1/2 and Akt phosphorylation in a dose-dependent manner. While JNK inhibitor SP600125 and p38 inhibitor SB203580, abolished the cytotoxic effect of BITC, MEK inhibitor, PD98059 and PI3 kinase inhibitor, LY294002 failed to show such reversal indicating a critical role played by JNK1/2 and p38 signaling in apoptosis induced by BITC. In summary, our studies demonstrate that BITC inhibits proliferation of OC cells and induces apoptosis via caspase-9 and -3 pathways. BITC inhibits ERK1/2 and Akt survival signaling while simultaneously activating pro-apoptotic p38 and JNK1/2. Therefore, BITC can be potentially developed as a therapeutic agent to treat OC.

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