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Open Access Research article

Cancer during pregnancy alters the activity of rat placenta and enhances the expression of cleaved PARP, cytochrome-c and caspase 3

Mércia Tancredo Toledo, Gislaine Ventrucci and Maria Cristina Cintra Gomes Marcondes*

Author Affiliations

Departamento de Fisiologia e Biofísica, Instituto de Biologia, Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP), Campinas, CP 6109, 13083-970, SP, Brazil

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BMC Cancer 2006, 6:168  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-6-168

Published: 26 June 2006



The presence of cancer makes it difficult to predict the progress of pregnancy and can be deleterious to the maternal-foetal relationship. Apoptosis may affect a range of placental functions and result in the retardation of foetal growth. In this work, we investigated the placental alterations produced by tumour growth and the effects on the expression of apoptotic factors in placental tissue.


Adult female Wistar rats (90 days old, n = 54) were allocated to control (C), tumour-bearing (W), or ascitic fluid-injected (A) groups and were killed on the 16th, 19th or 21st day of pregnancy. Placental tissues were analysed using biochemical and histochemical assays.


The placental protein content and glutathione-S-transferase activity were decreased in groups W and A. Histochemical analysis showed an increase in the number of cells with cleaved PARP, caspase 3 and cytochrome-c in groups W and A, indicating that the tumour growth clearly damaged placental tissue and affected the levels of apoptotic factors. These results were confirmed by western blotting.


Since trophoblastic cells are responsible for maintaining a normal placental function, the uncontrolled death of these cells in response to tumour cell growth or substances derived from ascitic fluid could have a negative impact on foetal development. Further knowledge of these events may help to preserve the foetus and placenta during development.