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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2014, Article ID 637528, 8 pages
Research Article

Elemene Injection Induced Autophagy Protects Human Hepatoma Cancer Cells from Starvation and Undergoing Apoptosis

1Institute of First Clinical Medicine, Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine, Nanjing, Jiangsu 210046, China
2Department of Oncology, The Second Affiliated Hospital of Nanjing Medical University, Nanjing, Jiangsu 210021, China
3Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Biology, Jiangsu Province Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 100 Shizi Street, Hongshan Road, Nanjing, Jiangsu 210028, China
4Oncology Center of Chinese, 81 Hospital of PLA, Nanjing, Jiangsu 210002, China

Received 20 May 2014; Accepted 23 May 2014; Published 24 July 2014

Academic Editor: Peng Cao

Copyright © 2014 Yan Lin 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.


Elemene, a compound found in an herb used in traditional Chinese medicine, has shown promising anticancer effects against a broad spectrum of tumors. In an in vivo experiment, we found that apatinib, a tyrosine kinase inhibitor that selectively inhibits VEGFR2, combined with elemene injection (Ele) for the treatment of H22 solid tumor in mice resulted in worse effectiveness than apatinib alone. Moreover, Ele could protect HepG2 cells from death induced by serum-free starvation. Further data on the mechanism study revealed that Ele induced protective autophagy and prevented human hepatoma cancer cells from undergoing apoptosis. Proapoptosis effect of Ele was enhanced when proautophagy effect was inhibited by hydroxychloroquine. Above all, Ele has the effect of protecting cancer cells from death either in apatinib induced nutrient deficient environment or in serum-free induced starvation. A combination of elemene injection with autophagy inhibitor might thus be a useful therapeutic option for hepatocellular carcinoma.