Combination simvastatin and metformin synergistically inhibits endometrial cancer cell growth

OBJECTIVE: 

Recent data show that simvastatin (SIM) and metformin (MET) have anti-proliferative effects in endometrial cancer cells. The combination (MET+SIM) inhibits tumor growth and metastasis in prostate cancer cells which possess similar molecular alterations to many early endometrial cancers. We tested the hypothesis that the anti-proliferative effects of MET+SIM in endometrial cancer cells would be greater than the effects of each agent alone.

METHODS: 

RL95-2, HEC1B, and Ishikawa endometrial cancer cell lines were treated with MET and/or SIM. Growth inhibition was measured by MTS cell proliferation assays. Apoptosis was evaluated by caspase-3, Annexin V, and TUNEL assays and by apoptosis markers (BAX, Bcl-2, Bim) using western blot. Bim was silenced using Bim siRNA to confirm this apoptotic pathway. Treatment effects on the mTOR pathway were investigated by western blot using antibodies to phosphorylated (phospho)-AMPK and phospho-S6.

RESULTS: 

MET+SIM synergistically inhibited growth in all three cell lines. The combination induced apoptosis as measured by TUNEL, Annexin V, and caspase-3 assays. Bim siRNA transfection abrogated this effect-silencing Bim in MET+SIM-treated RL95-2 cells rescued cell viability in MTS assays and reduced caspase-3 activity compared with control siRNA-transfected cells. Combination treatment upregulated phosphorylated AMPK and downregulated downstream phosphorylated S6, suggesting mTOR inhibition as a mechanism for these anti-proliferative effects.

CONCLUSIONS: 

MET+SIM treatment synergistically inhibits endometrial cancer cell viability. This may be mediated by apoptosis and mTOR pathway inhibition. Our results provide preclinical evidence that the combination of these well-tolerated drugs may warrant further clinical investigation for endometrial cancer treatment.