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Melatonin Sensitizes Human Colorectal Cancer Cells to γ-ray Ionizing Radiation In Vitro and In Vivo

Tianjin Key Lab of Radiation Medicine Molecular Nuclear Medicine, Institute of Radiation Medicine, Chinese Academy of Medical Science and Peking Union Medical College, Tianjin 300192, China
Department of Cellular Biology, School of Basic Medical Sciences, Tianjin Medical University, Tianjin 300070, China
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2018, 19(12), 3974;
Received: 14 November 2018 / Revised: 4 December 2018 / Accepted: 7 December 2018 / Published: 10 December 2018
(This article belongs to the Collection Radiation Toxicity in Cells)
PDF [2245 KB, uploaded 10 December 2018]


Colorectal cancer is the most commonly reported gastrointestinal malignancy, with a recent, rapid increase of the annual incidence all over the world. Enhancing the radiosensitivity of cancer cells while preserving the health of normal cells is one of the most important tasks in clinical radiobiology. However, resistance to radiotherapy for colorectal cancer greatly decreases the therapeutic outcome. Melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine), a natural secretory product that the pineal gland in the brain normally produces, has been reported to have anticancer properties. In the study, we investigated the combination of melatonin with radiotherapy as a treatment for colorectal cancer. We firstly explored the anti-tumor activity of melatonin combined with ionizing radiation (IR) against colorectal carcinoma in vitro. It was found that melatonin effectively inhibited human colorectal carcinoma cell line HCT 116 cellular proliferation, colony formation rate and cell migration counts following IR. Increasing the radiosensitivity of colorectal cancer cells by melatonin treatment was found to be associated with cell cycle arrest in the G2/M phase, downregulation of proteins involved in DNA double-strand break repair and activation of the caspase-dependent apoptotic pathway. Moreover, we also investigated the combined effect of IR and melatonin on colorectal tumor in vivo. Results from a tumor xenograft showed that melatonin plus IR treatment significantly suppressed tumor cell growth compared with melatonin or IR alone, resulting in a much higher tumor inhibition rate for the combined treatment. The data suggested that melatonin combined with IR could improve the radiosensitivity of colorectal cancer and thus enhance the therapeutic effect of the patients, implying melatonin could function as a potential sensitizer in tumor radiotherapy. View Full-Text
Keywords: melatonin; colorectal cancer; ionizing radiation; radiosensitivity melatonin; colorectal cancer; ionizing radiation; radiosensitivity

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Wang, Q.; Sun, Z.; Du, L.; Xu, C.; Wang, Y.; Yang, B.; He, N.; Wang, J.; Ji, K.; Liu, Y.; Liu, Q. Melatonin Sensitizes Human Colorectal Cancer Cells to γ-ray Ionizing Radiation In Vitro and In Vivo. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2018, 19, 3974.

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