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International Journal of Breast Cancer
Volume 2014 (2014), Article ID 423059, 7 pages
Research Article

Comparison of Cantharidin Toxicity in Breast Cancer Cells to Two Common Chemotherapeutics

Department of Biology, Millikin University, Decatur, IL 62522, USA

Received 16 July 2014; Accepted 5 September 2014; Published 14 September 2014

Academic Editor: Ian S. Fentiman

Copyright © 2014 Katie M. Kern and Jennifer R. Schroeder. 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.


As part of a larger study synthesizing a more directed form of chemotherapy, we have begun to assess the efficacy of different potential toxins that could be delivered locally rather than systemically. In doing so, we hope to reduce the systemic side effects commonly observed, while maintaining a high level of toxicity and eliminating the need for metabolic alterations. In a search for this more efficient method for killing cancerous cells, we have begun studying cantharidin, a toxin used in traditional Chinese medicine, as a potential chemotherapeutic. Using an MTT cell viability assay, the toxicity of cantharidin was compared to both cyclophosphamide and paclitaxel in three different breast cancer cell lines: MCF-7, MDA-MB-231, and SK-BR-3. Increasing the concentration of chemotherapy drugs did decrease cell viability in all cell lines when cantharidin and cyclophosphamide were applied; however differences for paclitaxel were cell-specific. Additionally, cantharidin exhibited the highest decrease in cell viability regardless of cell type, indicating it may be a much more potent and less specific chemotherapeutic. These results will help us move forward in developing a potentially more potent treatment for breast cancer that might eliminate the need for subtype-specific treatments.