Vitamin E δ-tocotrienol (VEDT), a vitamin E compound isolated from sources such as palm fruit and annatto beans, has been reported to have cancer chemopreventive and therapeutic effects.
We report a novel function of VEDT in augmenting tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand- (TRAIL-) induced apoptosis in pancreatic cancer cells. The effects of VEDT were shown by its ability to trigger caspase-8-dependent apoptosis in pancreatic cancer cells.
When combined with TRAIL, VEDT significantly augmented TRAIL-induced apoptosis of pancreatic cancer cells. VEDT decreased cellular FLICE inhibitory protein (c-FLIP) levels without consistently modulating the expression of decoy death receptors 1, 2, 3 or death receptors 4 and 5. Enforced expression of c-FLIP substantially attenuated VEDT/TRAIL-induced apoptosis. Thus, c-FLIP reduction plays an important part in mediating VEDT/TRAIL-induced apoptosis. Moreover, VEDT increased c-FLIP ubiquitination and degradation but did not affect its transcription, suggesting that VEDT decreases c-FLIP levels through promoting its degradation. Of note, degradation of c-FLIP and enhanced TRAIL-induced apoptosis in pancreatic cancer cells were observed only with the anticancer bioactive vitamin E compounds δ-, γ-, and β-tocotrienol but not with the anticancer inactive vitamin E compounds α-tocotrienol and α-, β-, γ-, and δ-tocopherol.
c-FLIP degradation is a key event for death receptor-induced apoptosis by anticancer bioactive vitamin E compounds in pancreatic cancer cells. Moreover, VEDT augmented TRAIL inhibition of pancreatic tumor growth and induction of apoptosis in vivo. Combination therapy with TRAIL agonists and bioactive vitamin E compounds may offer a novel strategy for pancreatic cancer intervention.