Breast cancer is a major challenge for pharmacologists to develop new drugs to improve the survival of cancer patients. Frondoside A is a triterpenoid glycoside isolated from the sea cucumber, Cucumaria frondosa. It has been demonstrated that Frondoside A inhibited the growth of pancreatic cancer cells in vitro and in vivo. We investigated the impact of Frondoside A on human breast cancer cell survival, migration and invasion in vitro, and on tumor growth in nude mice, using the human estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer cell line MDA-MB-231. The non-tumorigenic MCF10-A cell line derived from normal human mammary epithelium was used as control. Frondoside A (0.01-5 μM) decreased the viability of breast cancer cells in a concentration- and time-dependent manner, with 50%-effective concentration (EC50) of 2.5 μM at 24h. MCF10-A cells were more resistant to the cytotoxic effect of Frondoside A (EC50 superior to 5 μM at 24 h). In the MDA-MB-231 cells, Frondoside A effectively increased the sub-G1 (apoptotic) cell fraction through the activation of p53, and subsequently the caspases 9 and 3/7 cell death pathways. In addition, Frondoside A induced a concentration-dependent inhibition of MDA-MB-231 cell migration and invasion. In vivo, Frondoside A (100 μg/kg/dayi.p. for 24 days) strongly decreased the growth of MDA-MB-231 tumor xenografts in athymic mice, without manifest toxic side-effects. Moreover, we found that Frondoside A could enhance the killing of breast cancer cells induced by the chemotherapeutic agent paclitaxel. These findings identify Frondoside A as a promising novel therapeutic agent for breast cancer.
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