Mefloquine (MQ) is a prophylactic anti-malarial drug. Previous studies have shown that MQ induces oxidative stress in vitro. Evidence indicates that reactive oxygen species (ROS) may be used as a therapeutic modality to kill cancer cells. This study investigated whether MQ also inhibits prostate cancer (PCa) cell growth. We used sulforhodamine B (SRB) staining to determine cell viability. MQ has a highly selective cytotoxicity that inhibits PCa cell growth. The antitumor effect was most significant when examined using a colony formation assay. MQ also induces hyperpolarization of the mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP), as well as ROS generation. The blockade of MQ-induced anticancer effects by N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) pre-treatment confirmed the role of ROS. This indicates that the MQ-induced anticancer effects are caused primarily by increased ROS generation. Moreover, we observed that MQ-mediated ROS simultaneously downregulated Akt phosphorylation and activated extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) and adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK) signaling in PC3 cells. These findings provide insights for further anticancer therapeutic options.
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