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BioMed Research International
Volume 2014, Article ID 794930, 9 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2014/794930
Review Article

Evaluating the Cancer Therapeutic Potential of Cardiac Glycosides

1Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Seville, 41012 Seville, Spain
2Department of Cell Biology, Faculty of Biology, University of Seville, Spain

Received 27 February 2014; Revised 25 April 2014; Accepted 28 April 2014; Published 8 May 2014

Academic Editor: Gautam Sethi

Copyright © 2014 José Manuel Calderón-Montaño et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Cardiac glycosides, also known as cardiotonic steroids, are a group of natural products that share a steroid-like structure with an unsaturated lactone ring and the ability to induce cardiotonic effects mediated by a selective inhibition of the Na+/K+-ATPase. Cardiac glycosides have been used for many years in the treatment of cardiac congestion and some types of cardiac arrhythmias. Recent data suggest that cardiac glycosides may also be useful in the treatment of cancer. These compounds typically inhibit cancer cell proliferation at nanomolar concentrations, and recent high-throughput screenings of drug libraries have therefore identified cardiac glycosides as potent inhibitors of cancer cell growth. Cardiac glycosides can also block tumor growth in rodent models, which further supports the idea that they have potential for cancer therapy. Evidence also suggests, however, that cardiac glycosides may not inhibit cancer cell proliferation selectively and the potent inhibition of tumor growth induced by cardiac glycosides in mice xenografted with human cancer cells is probably an experimental artifact caused by their ability to selectively kill human cells versus rodent cells. This paper reviews such evidence and discusses experimental approaches that could be used to reveal the cancer therapeutic potential of cardiac glycosides in preclinical studies.