Diclofenac enhances docosahexaenoic acid-induced apoptosis in vitro in lung cancer cells

Rosemary A. Poku, Kylee J. Jones, Megan Van Baren, Jamie K. Alan, Felix Amissah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) show anticancer activities through diverse molecular mechanisms. However, the anticancer capacities of either PUFAs or NSAIDs alone is limited. We examined whether combining NSAIDs with docosahexaenoic (DHA), commonly derived from fish oils, would possibly synergize their anticancer activity. We determined the viability of lung cancer cell lines (NCI-H1573, A549, NCI-H1299, and NCI-H1975) after exposure to DHA and various NSAIDs. We further conducted cell apoptosis assays and analyzed apoptosis-associated proteins and some key proteins in the RAS/MEK/ERK and PI3K/Akt pathways using western blot analysis. We also determined the impact of the treatment on the expression of inducible cancer-related genes using nCounter PanCancer Pathways gene expression analysis. The results showed that the combination of DHA and NSAIDs increased suppression of cell viability in all the lung cancer cell lines tested compared to each of the compounds used alone, with diclofenac being the most potent NSAID tested. This synergistic effect is especially significant in A549 and NCI-H1573 cells. The combination treatment was more effective at inhibiting clonogenic cell growth and anchorage-independent growth in soft agar, inducing caspase-dependent apoptosis, and altering expression of critical proteins in the RAS/MEK/ERK and PI3K/Akt pathways. The data from this study demonstrate that DHA combined with low dose diclofenac provides greater anticancer potential, which can be further developed for chemoprevention and adjunct therapy in lung cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2683
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2020


  • Cyclooxygenase
  • Diclofenac
  • Docosahexaenoic acid
  • K-Ras
  • Lung cancer
  • Nanostring
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acids


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