Chemotherapy is essential to most patients with gastric cancer and the anticancer drug, irinotecan (CPT-11), and its metabolite, SN-38, an inhibitor of DNA topoisomerase I, are first-line chemotherapies for gastric cancer. Quercetin, a flavonoid that is widely found in various vegetables and fruits, has the ability to potentiate the efficacy of anticancer drugs. The purpose of this study was to investigate the therapeutic effect of quercetin combined with irinotecan/SN-38 in the AGS human gastric cancer cell line in vitro and in vivo. The in vitro study evaluated the efficacy of high-dose SN-38 and quercetin combined with low-dose SN-38 on cell viability, apoptosis, and β-catenin expression. Results showed that cell viability and the percentage of apoptosis in combined treatments with quercetin and SN-38 were comparable to treatment with high-dose SN-38 alone. AGS cells treated with a high dose of SN-38 exhibited up-regulation of β-catenin protein expression, whereas quercetin-treated cells (either quercetin alone or combined with low-dose SN-38) exhibited lower protein levels of β-catenin. In the AGS xenograft mouse model, gene expression of cyclooxygenase-2 and epithelial-mesenchymal transition-related markers, such as Twist1 and ITGβ6, were lower in combined treatments with quercetin and low-dose irinotecan than high-dose irinotecan alone. Furthermore, the concentration of angiogenesis-associated factors (vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-A and VEGF-receptor 2) and percentage of Tie2-expressing monocytes was significantly down-regulated in combined treatments with quercetin and irinotecan. These results suggest that quercetin may enhance the efficacy of irinotecan/SN-38 in the human AGS cell line.
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