The major obstacle for the treatment of gastric cancer is recurrence and metastasis; yet, its molecular mechanism is largely unknown. 2-methoxyestradiol (2-ME), a metabolite of the estradiol-17β, has recently been demonstrated to have multifactorial effects against tumor proliferation and angiogenesis; how these effects are interrelated and act cooperatively is the key question to be elucidated. Akt activation was shown to promote cancer cell invasiveness, and inhibition of Akt phosphorylation by 2-ME was also noted. We herein investigated the significance of PI3K/Akt activation in gastric cancer metastasis and the anti-metastatic effect of 2-ME through attenuation of Akt activity. Immunohistochemistry of PI3K, phosphorylated Akt (p-Akt) and phosphorylated Erk (p-Erk) was performed in tumors from 56 gastric cancer patients, and a significant correlation between PI3K/p-Akt and tumor stage/prognosis was demonstrated (p <0.05). An in vitro study of 7 gastric cancer cell lines showed a remarkable correlation between PI3K and p-Akt. PI3K/p-Akt overexpression was associated with invasiveness/migration; in contrast, phosphorylation of Erk was not shown to be correlated with invasiveness. In addition, metastatic gastric cancer clones expressed a higher level of PI3K/p-Akt. The anti-metastatic effect of a low dose of 2-ME and inactivation of Akt was demonstrated. 2-ME also exhibited an ability to inhibit gastric cancer cell proliferation and induce G2/M cell cycle arrest at a higher concentration than that required for inhibition of migration. We conclude that the activation of PI3K/Akt pathway is involved in the late-stage progression and metastasis of gastric cancer, and attenuation of p-Akt by 2-ME suppresses metastasis.
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