Cisplatin is a prevalent chemotherapeutic agent used for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) that is difficult to treat by targeted therapy, but the emergence of resistance severely limits its efficacy. Thus, an effective strategy to combat cisplatin resistance is required. This study demonstrated that, at clinically achievable concentrations, the combination of selenium yeast (Se-Y) and fish oil (FO) could synergistically induce the apoptosis of cancer stem cell (CSC)-like A549 NSCLC sphere cells, accompanied by a reversal of their resistance to cisplatin. Compared to parental A549 cells, sphere cells have higher cisplatin resistance and possess elevated CSC markers (CD133 and ABCG2), epithelial–mesenchymal transition markers (anexelekto (AXL), vimentin, and N-cadherin), and cytoprotective endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress marker (glucose-regulated protein 78) and increased oncogenic drivers, such as yes-associated protein, transcriptional coactivator with PDZ-binding motif, β-catenin, and cyclooxygenase-2. In contrast, the proapoptotic ER stress marker CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein homologous protein and AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) activity were reduced in sphere cells. The Se-Y and FO combination synergistically counteracted the above molecular features of A549 sphere cells and diminished their elevated CSC-like side population. AMPK inhibition by compound C restored the side population proportion diminished by this nutrient combination. The results suggest that the Se-Y and FO combination can potentially improve the outcome of cisplatin-treated NSCLC with phenotypes such as A549 cells.
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