Molecular Modes of Action of an Aqueous Nerium oleander Extract in Cancer Cells In Vitro and In Vivo
Cancer drug resistance remains a major obstacle in clinical oncology. As most anticancer drugs are of natural origin, we investigated the anticancer potential of a standardized cold-water leaf extract from Nerium oleander L., termed Breastin. The phytochemical characterization by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) and low- and high-resolution mass spectrometry revealed several monoglycosidic cardenolides as major constituents (adynerin, neritaloside, odoroside A, odoroside H, oleandrin, and vanderoside). Breastin inhibited the growth of 14 cell lines from hematopoietic tumors and 5 of 6 carcinomas. Remarkably, the cellular responsiveness of odoroside H and neritaloside was not correlated with all other classical drug resistance mechanisms, i.e., ATP-binding cassette transporters (ABCB1, ABCB5, ABCC1, ABCG2), oncogenes (EGFR, RAS), tumor suppressors (TP53, WT1), and others (GSTP1, HSP90, proliferation rate), in 59 tumor cell lines of the National Cancer Institute (NCI, USA), indicating that Breastin may indeed bypass drug resistance. COMPARE analyses with 153 anticancer agents in 74 tumor cell lines of the Oncotest panel revealed frequent correlations of Breastin with mitosis-inhibiting drugs. Using tubulin-GFP-transfected U2OS cells and confocal microscopy, it was found that the microtubule-disturbing effect of Breastin was comparable to that of the tubulin-depolymerizing drug paclitaxel. This result was verified by a tubulin polymerization assay in vitro and molecular docking in silico. Proteome profiling of 3171 proteins in the NCI panel revealed protein subsets whose expression significantly correlated with cellular responsiveness to odoroside H and neritaloside, indicating that protein expression profiles can be identified to predict the sensitivity or resistance of tumor cells to Breastin constituents. Breastin moderately inhibited breast cancer xenograft tumors in vivo. Remarkably, in contrast to what was observed with paclitaxel monotherapy, the combination of paclitaxel and Breastin prevented tumor relapse, indicating Breastin’s potential for drug combination regimens.