Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a common cause of cancer death worldwide. Sorafenib, a multikinase inhibitor, is the first-line drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of patients with advanced HCC. However, most patients who continuously receive sorafenib may acquire resistance to this drug. Therefore, it is important to develop a new compound to treat liver cancer and sorafenib-resistant liver cancer. Barbituric acid derivatives have been used as antiasthmatic drugs in the clinic. We previously reported that a novel barbituric acid derivative inhibited carbon tetrachloride-induced liver fibrosis in mice, but its effects on liver cancer remain unknown. Thus, the purpose of this study was to investigate the antitumor effect of barbituric acid derivatives on HCC cells and sorafenib-resistant HCC cells (HCC-SRs). Our findings reveal that one of the barbituric acid derivatives, BA-5, significantly inhibited HCC and HCC-SR cell viability in a dose- and time-dependent manner. Therefore, compound BA-5 was selected for further experiments. Western blot data revealed that BA-5 treatment decreased the phosphorylation of AKT/p70s6k without affecting the MAPK pathway and increased cleaved PARP and cleaved caspase-7 in both HCC and HCC-SR cells. Since epithelial-mesenchymal transition plays a significant role in regulating cancer invasion and migration, we used the wound healing assay to evaluate the antimigratory effect of compound BA-5. The results showed that BA-5 treatment inhibited HCC and HCC-SR cell migration and reduced Vimentin protein expression. These results were confirmed by microarray analysis showing that BA-5 treatment influenced cancer cell motility and growth-related pathways. In the xenograft mouse model experiment, BA-5 administration significantly inhibited HCC cancer cell growth in mice. Furthermore, the combination of BA-5 with a low dose of regorafenib synergistically inhibited HCC-SR cell proliferation. In conclusion, our study showed that the barbituric acid derivative BA-5 is a new candidate for HCC and sorafenib-resistant HCC therapy.
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