The antipsychotic drug chlorpromazine enhances the cytotoxic effect of tamoxifen in tamoxifen-sensitive and tamoxifen-resistant human breast cancer cells

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Abstract

Tamoxifen resistance is a major clinical problem in the treatment of estrogen receptor α-positive breast tumors. It is, at present, unclear what exactly causes tamoxifen resistance. For decades, chlorpromazine has been used for treating psychotic diseases, such as schizophrenia. However, the compound is now also recognized as a multitargeting drug with diverse potential applications, for example, it has antiproliferative properties and it can reverse resistance toward antibiotics in bacteria. Furthermore, chlorpromazine can reverse multidrug resistance caused by overexpression of P-glycoprotein in cancer cells. In this study, we have investigated the effect of chlorpromazine on tamoxifen response of human breast cancer cells. We found that chlorpromazine worked synergistically together with tamoxifen with respect to reduction of cell growth and metabolic activity, both in the antiestrogen-sensitive breast cancer cell line, MCF-7, and in a tamoxifen-resistant cell line, established from the MCF-7 cells. Tamoxifen-sensitive and tamoxifen-resistant cells were killed equally well by combined treatment with chlorpromazine and tamoxifen. This synergistic effect could be prevented by addition of estrogen, suggesting that chlorpromazine enhances the effect of tamoxifen through an estrogen receptor-mediated mechanism. To investigate this putative mechanism, we applied biophysical techniques to simple model membranes in the form of unilamellar liposomes of well-defined composition and found that chlorpromazine interacts strongly with lipid bilayers of different composition leading to increased permeability. This implies that chlorpromazine can change influx properties of membranes hence suggesting that chlorpromazine may be a promising chemosensitizing compound for enhancing the cytotoxic effect of tamoxifen.

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