Doxorubicin-induced platelet cytotoxicity: A new contributory factor for doxorubicin-mediated thrombocytopenia

E. J. Kim, K. M. Lim, K. Y. Kim, O. N. Bae, J. Y. Noh, S. M. Chung, S. Shin, Y. P. Yun, J. H. Chung

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58 Scopus citations


Background: Doxorubicin (DOX) is a widely used anticancer drug for solid tumors and hematologic malignancy, but its active use is hampered by serious adverse effects, including thrombocytopenia. Although bone marrow toxicity of DOX has been suggested to be the sole mechanism underlying the reduced platelet counts, the direct effects of DOX on platelets have never been examined. Objective: Here, we investigated the DOX-induced platelet cytotoxicity and its underlying mechanism in an effort to elucidate the contribution of platelet cytotoxicity to DOX-induced thrombocytopenia. Results: In freshly isolated human platelets, DOX induced platelet cytotoxicity in a time-dependent and concentration-dependent manner. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation, decreased glutathione levels and subsequent protein thiol depletion were shown to underlie the DOX-induced platelet cytotoxicity. Conspicuously, DOX-treated platelets displayed apoptotic features such as caspase-3 activation, reduced mitochondrial transmembrane potential, and phosphatidylserine exposure. Decreased glutathiolation of procaspase-3 was shown to be a link between protein thiol depletion and caspase-3 activation. It is of note that DOX-mediated platelet cytotoxicity was significantly enhanced by shear stress, a common complicating factor in cancer patients. These in vitro results were further confirmed by an animal model, where administration of DOX induced a platelet count decrease, ROS generation, caspase-3 activation, protein thiol depletion, and damaged platelet integrity. Conclusion: We demonstrated that DOX can directly induce platelet cytotoxicity through ROS generation, decreased glutathione levels, and protein thiol depletion. We believe that this study provides important evidence for the role of DOX-induced platelet cytotoxicity in the development of thrombocytopenia in DOX-treated patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1172-1183
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2009


  • Caspase-3
  • Cytotoxicity
  • Doxorubicin
  • Platelet
  • Thrombocytopenia


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