Cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitors suppress the growth of human hepatocellular carcinoma implants in nude mice

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Cyclooxygenase (COX)-2 is expressed in hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs) and HCC cell lines. COX-2 inhibition strongly suppresses growth of HCC cells in vitro by inducing apoptosis and reducing proliferation. Here, we evaluate the in vivo effects and mechanism of COX-2 inhibition of human HCC cell line derived xenotransplanted tumors in nude mice. Firstly, nude mice were treated with a COX-2 specific inhibitor (meloxicam) or a non-specific inhibitor (sulindac) starting 5 days prior to tumor cell injection. After 35 days mice were killed and tumors were analyzed morphologically and assayed for proliferation (Ki67), apoptosis (M30) and COX-2 expression. Secondly, mice were treated with meloxicam or sulindac after tumors had reached a diameter of at least 0.2 cm. COX-2 expression was maintained in implant tumors at levels comparable with parental cells. Selective COX-2 inhibition led to a significant reduction of tumor growth and weight. COX-2 inhibition had a significant anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effect on tumor cells. These results demonstrate that under experimental conditions selective COX-2 inhibition suppresses solid HCC growth in vivo and, therefore may have preventive and therapeutic potential for human HCCs.

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