Phenylbutyrate induces apoptosis in human prostate cancer and is more potent than phenylacetate

Michael A. Carducci, Joel B. Nelson, Kirk M. Chan-Tack, Sujatha R. Ayyagari, William H. Sweatt, Pearl A. Campbell, William G. Nelson, Jonathan W. Simons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

141 Scopus citations


Phenylbutyrate (PB), a novel lead compound for prostate cancer therapy, has molecular activities distinct from its metabolite, phenylacetate (PA). Both PB and PA promote differentiation in human prostate cancer cell lines, yet little data exist comparing the cytotoxic effects of each drug. We found that PB is more potent than PA in vitro; PB is 1.5-2.5 times more active at inhibiting growth and inducing programmed cell death than PA at clinically achievable doses against each human prostate cancer line studied. PB is equipotent to sodium butyrate, which induces apoptosis and differentiation through multiple mechanisms. Exposure of prostate cancer cell lines to PB reduces their DNA synthesis, leads to fragmentation of genomic DNA, and causes 50-60% of cells to undergo apoptosis. These PB-induced effects are 2-10 times greater than those of the control or PA. The stereotypical changes of apoptosis can be seen with sodium butyrate at similar concentrations, but not with PA. Prostate cancer cell lines overexpressing P-glycoprotein or possessing heterogeneous molecular alterations, including p53 mutations, are also sensitive to the effects of PB. In vivo, Copenhagen rats treated with oral PB had delayed growth of the androgen refractory Dunning R-3327 MAT-LyLu prostate cancer subline by 30-45% in a dose-dependent manner. These results demonstrate that PB induces cytotoxicity via apoptosis in human prostate cancer, in addition to its differentiating properties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)379-387
Number of pages9
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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