Journal of cellular and molecular medicine

Disulfiram combined with copper inhibits metastasis and epithelial-mesenchymal transition in hepatocellular carcinoma through the NF-κB and TGF-β pathways.

PMID 29148232


Late-stage hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) usually has a low survival rate because of the high risk of metastases and the lack of an effective cure. Disulfiram (DSF) has copper (Cu)-dependent anticancer properties in vitro and in vivo. The present work aims to explore the anti-metastasis effects and molecular mechanisms of DSF/Cu on HCC cells both in vitro and in vivo. The results showed that DSF inhibited the proliferation, migration and invasion of HCC cells. Cu improved the anti-metastatic activity of DSF, while Cu alone had no effect. Furthermore, DSF/Cu inhibited both NF-κB and TGF-β signalling, including the nuclear translocation of NF-κB subunits and the expression of Smad4, leading to down-regulation of Snail and Slug, which contributed to phenotype epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Finally, DSF/Cu inhibited the lung metastasis of Hep3B cells not only in a subcutaneous tumour model but also in an orthotopic liver metastasis assay. These results indicated that DSF/Cu suppressed the metastasis and EMT of hepatic carcinoma through NF-κB and TGF-β signalling. Our study indicates the potential of DSF/Cu for therapeutic use.