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Synergistic Cytotoxicity of Melatonin and New-generation Anticancer Drugs Against Leukemia Lymphocytes But Not Normal Lymphocytes

The present study demonstrates specific sensitization of leukemia lymphocytes towards anticancer drugs using melatonin and clarifies the role of reactive oxygen species (ROS) for induction of apoptosis. The study covers four conventional and 11 new-generation anticancer drugs. Four parameters were analyzed simultaneously in leukemia and normal lymphocytes treated with drug, melatonin, or their combination: cell viability, induction of apoptosis, level of reactive oxygen species (ROS), and level of protein-carbonyl products. Almost all investigated combinations of melatonin with new-generation anticancer drugs were characterized by synergistic cytotoxicity towards leukemia lymphocytes, while the combinations with conventional drugs exhibited additive or antagonistic effects on cell viability. In leukemia lymphocytes, the additive cytotoxicity of doxorubicin plus melatonin was accompanied by low levels of ROS and protein-carbonyl products, as well as by suppression of apoptosis. In normal lymphocytes, none of the studied parameters changed significantly compared to cells treated with doxorubicin only. The combinations of everolimus plus melatonin and barasertib plus melatonin exhibited impressive synergistic cytotoxic effects on leukemia lymphocytes but did not affect the viability of normal lymphocytes. In leukemia cells, the synergistic cytotoxicity was accompanied by strong induction of apoptosis but a decrease of ROS to a level below that of the control. In normal lymphocytes, these combinations did not affect the level of ROS nor of protein-carbonyl products, and did not induce apoptosis. The data suggest that melatonin is a promising supplementary component in chemotherapy which allows the therapeutic doses of anticancer drugs to be reduced, minimizing their side-effects.

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