Molecular Medicine

, Volume 17, Issue 9–10, pp 1084–1094 | Cite as

Progesterone Inhibits the Growth of Human Neuroblastoma: In Vitro and In Vivo Evidence

  • Fahim Atif
  • Iqbal Sayeed
  • Seema Yousuf
  • Tauheed Ishrat
  • Fang Hua
  • Jun Wang
  • Daniel J. Brat
  • Donald G. Stein
Research Article


We investigated the antitumorogenic effects of progesterone (P4) in a human neuroblastoma (SK-N-AS) cell line in vitro and in a mouse xenograft model of neuroblastoma. The safety of P4 was tested in rat primary cortical neurons and human foreskin fibroblasts (HFF-1). At high doses, P4 significantly (P < 0.05) decreased SK-N-AS cell viability in vitro, and this effect was not blocked either by 5α-reductase inhibitor, finasteride or the P4 receptor antagonist RU486. Even at very high doses, P4 did not induce any cell death in healthy primary cortical neurons or HFF-1. The bioavailability of P4 24 h after the last injection in the serum of treated animals was significantly (P < 0.05) higher (10–33 µg/mL) than in untreated animals. In nude mice, P4 (50 and 100 mg/kg) inhibited neuroblastoma growth by ∼50% over 8 d of treatment. No drug toxicity was observed in the mice, as measured by body weight and activity. P4 suppressed the expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and matrix metalloproteinases (MMP-9, MMP-2), which are involved in tumor vascular development. High-dose P4 inhibited tumor growth by suppressing cell proliferation and inducing apoptosis, as evidenced by the expression of proliferating cell nuclear antigen and cleaved caspase-3. P4 significantly increased the expression of P4 receptor isoform-A and suppressed phospho-Akt (Ser437) expression. In conclusion, at high doses, P4 effectively inhibits the growth of solid neuroblastoma tumor and has high bioavailability, selective toxicity and a high margin of safety making it a possible candidate for further study as a potential clinical treatment of neuroblastoma.



The authors thank Leslie McCann for invaluable editorial assistance. F Atif thanks Bilal B Hafeez (Department of Human Oncology, University of Wisconsin Madison, WI, USA) for constructive discussions. We thank Brian Leyland-Jones and his laboratory group in the Winship Cancer Center of Emory University for careful review of this manuscript and thoughtful suggestions for improvement. We are also grateful for the consistent support of Emory College and the Laney Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.


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Copyright information

© The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fahim Atif
    • 1
  • Iqbal Sayeed
    • 1
  • Seema Yousuf
    • 1
  • Tauheed Ishrat
    • 1
  • Fang Hua
    • 1
  • Jun Wang
    • 1
  • Daniel J. Brat
    • 2
    • 3
  • Donald G. Stein
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Emergency Medicine, Brain Research LaboratoryEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, School of MedicineEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  3. 3.Winship Cancer InstituteEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA

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