Metabolomics-based discovery of XHP as a CYP3A4 inhibitor against pancreatic cancer
Background: Xihuang Wan (XHW), a purgative and detoxifying agent, is commonly utilized in modern medicine as a treatment and adjuvant therapy for various malignancies, including breast cancer, liver cancer, and lung cancer. A clinical study demonstrated the potential usefulness of the combination of XHW and gemcitabine as a therapy for pancreatic cancer (PC), indicating that XHW’s broad-spectrum antitumor herbal combination could be beneficial in the treatment of PC. However, the precise therapeutic efficacy of XHW in treating pancreatic cancer remains uncertain. Aim: This study assessed the biological activity of XHW by optimizing the therapeutic concentration of XHW (Xihuang pills, XHP). We performed cell culture and developed an animal test model to determine whether XHP can inhibit pancreatic cancer (PC). We also applied the well-known widely targeted metabolomics analysis and conducted specific experiments to assess the feasibility of our method in PC therapy. Materials and Methods: We used UPLC/Q-TOF-MS to test XHP values to set up therapeutic concentrations for the in vivo test model. SW1990 pancreatic cancer cells were cultured to check the effect the anti-cancer effects of XHP by general in vitro cell analyses including CCK-8, Hoechst 33258, and flow cytometry. To develop the animal model, a solid tumor was subcutaneously formed on a mouse model of PC and assessed by immunohistochemistry and TUNEL apoptosis assay. We also applied the widely targeted metabolomics method following Western blot and RT-PCR to evaluate multiple metabolites to check the therapeutic effect of XHP in our cancer test model. Results: Quantified analysis from UPLC/Q-TOF-MS showed the presence of the following components of XHP: 11-carbonyl-β-acetyl-boswellic acid (AKBA), 11-carbonyl-β-boswellic acid (KBA), 4-methylene-2,8,8-trimethyl-2-vinyl-bicyclo [5.2.0]nonane, and (1S-endo)-2-methyl-3-methylene-2-(4-methyl-3-3-pentenyl)-bicyclo [2.2.1heptane]. The results of the cell culture experiments demonstrated that XHP suppressed the growth of SW1990 PC cells by enhancing apoptosis. The results of the animal model tests also indicated the suppression effect of XHP on tumor growth. Furthermore, the result of the widely targeted metabolomics analysis showed that the steroid hormone biosynthesis metabolic pathway was a critical factor in the anti-PC effect of XHP in the animal model. Moreover, Western blot and RT-PCR analyses revealed XHP downregulated CYP3A4 expression as an applicable targeted therapeutic approach. Conclusion: The results of this study demonstrated the potential of XHP in therapeutic applications in PC. Moreover, the widely targeted metabolomics method revealed CYP3A4 is a potential therapeutic target of XHP in PC control. These findings provide a high level of confidence that XHP significantly acts as a CYP3A4 inhibitor in anti-cancer therapeutic applications.