NK1 receptor antagonists and dexamethasone as anticancer agents in vitro and in a model of brain tumours secondary to breast cancer

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Emend, an NK1 antagonist, and dexamethasone are used to treat complications associated with metastatic brain tumours and their treatment. It has been suggested that these agents exert anticancer effects apart from their current use. The effects of the NK1 antagonists, Emend and N-acetyl-L-tryptophan, and dexamethasone on tumour growth were investigated in vitro and in vivo at clinically relevant doses. For animal experiments, a stereotaxic injection model of Walker 256 rat breast carcinoma cells into the striatum of Wistar rats was used. Emend treatment led to a decrease in tumour cell viability in vitro, although this effect was not replicated by N-acetyl-L-tryptophan. Dexamethasone did not decrease tumour cell viability in vitro but decreased tumour volume in vivo, likely to be through a reduction in tumour oedema, as indicated by the increase in tumour cell density. None of the agents investigated altered tumour cell replication or apoptosis in vivo. Inoculated animals showed increased glial fibrillary acidic protein and ionized calcium-binding adapter molecule 1 immunoreactivity indicative of astrocytes and microglia in the peritumoral area, whereas treatment with Emend and dexamethasone reduced the labelling for both glial cells. These results do not support the hypothesis that NK1 antagonists or dexamethasone exert a cytotoxic action on tumour cells, although these conclusions may be specific to this model and cell line.

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