Open Access Research article

Celecoxib increases miR-222 while deterring aromatase-expressing breast tumor growth in mice

Tsz Yan Wong1, Fengjuan Li2, Shu-mei Lin5, Franky L Chan3, Shiuan Chen4 and Lai K Leung12*

Author Affiliations

1 Food and Nutritional Sciences Programme, School of Life Sciences, Faculty of Science, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Rm.507C MMW Bldg, Shatin, Hong Kong

2 Biochemistry Programme, School of Life Sciences, Faculty of Science, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, Hong Kong

3 School of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, Hong Kong

4 Division of Immunology, Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope, Duarte, CA 91010, USA

5 Department of Food Science, National Chiayi University, Chiayi City, Taiwan

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BMC Cancer 2014, 14:426  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-426

Published: 12 June 2014



Breast cancer is one of the most deadly diseases in women. Inhibiting the synthesis of estrogen is effective in treating patients with estrogen-responsive breast cancer. Previous studies have demonstrated that use of cyclooxygenase (COX) inhibitors is associated with reduced breast cancer risk.


In the present study, we employed an established mouse model for postmenopausal breast cancer to evaluate the potential mechanisms of the COX-2 inhibitor celecoxib. Aromatase-expressing MCF-7 cells were transplanted into ovariectomized athymic mice. The animals were given celecoxib at 1500 ppm or aspirin at 200 ppm by oral administration with androstenedione injection.


Our results showed that both COX inhibitors could suppress the cancer xenograft growth without changing the plasma estrogen level. Protein expression of ERα, COX-2, Cyclin A, and Bcl-xL were reduced in celecoxib-treated tumor samples, whereas only Bcl-xL expression was suppressed in those treated with aspirin. Among the breast cancer-related miRNAs, miR-222 expression was elevated in samples treated with celecoxib. Further studies in culture cells verified that the increase in miR-222 expression might contribute to ERα downregulation but not the growth deterrence of cells.


Overall, this study suggested that both celecoxib and aspirin could prevent breast cancer growth by regulating proteins in the cell cycle and apoptosis without blocking estrogen synthesis. Besides, celecoxib might affect miR expression in an undesirable fashion.

Celecoxib; Aspirin; Aromatase; miRNA