Pixantrone (PIX) is an anticancer drug approved for the treatment of multiple relapsed or refractory aggressive B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It is an aza-anthracenedione synthesized to have the same anticancer activity as its predecessors, anthracyclines (e.g. doxorubicin) and anthracenediones (e.g. mitoxantrone), with lower cardiotoxicity. However, published data regarding its possible cardiotoxicity are scarce. Therefore, this work aimed to assess the potential cytotoxicity of PIX, at clinically relevant concentrations (0.1; 1; and 10 µM) in both non-differentiated and 7-day differentiated H9c2 cells. Cells were exposed to PIX for 48 h and cytotoxicity was evaluated through phase contrast microscopy, Hoescht staining and the 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyl tetrazolium bromide (MTT) reduction and neutral red (NR) uptake assays. Cytotoxicity was observed in differentiated and non-differentiated H9c2 cells, with detached cells and round cells evidenced by phase contrast microscopy, mainly at the highest concentration tested (10 µM). In the Hoechst staining, PIX 10 µM showed a marked decrease in the number of cells when compared to control but with no signs of nuclear condensation. Furthermore, significant concentration-dependent mitochondrial dysfunction was observed through the MTT reduction assay. The NR assay showed similar results to those obtained in the MTT reduction assay in both differentiated and non-differentiated H9c2 cells. The differentiation state of the cells was not crucial to PIX effects, although PIX toxicity was slightly higher in differentiated H9c2 cells. To the best of our knowledge, this was the first in vitro study performed with PIX in H9c2 cells and it discloses worrying cytotoxicity at clinically relevant concentrations.
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