Treatment options are limited in patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL). Salvianolic acid A (SAA) is a water-soluble phenolic acid extracted from Salvia miltiorrhiza (Danshen) with anti-tumor properties. The anti-leukemic activity of SAA found in our recent research prompted us to investigate the therapeutic effect and mechanism of action of SAA in DLBCL. In the work described here, we found that SAA inhibited the viability of DLBCL cells by inducing cellular apoptosis, which was accompanied by upregulation of Bax and cleavage of PARP. Pre-incubation of SAA increased the phosphorylation of JNK, while it decreased the phosphorylation of p38 and ERK in DLBCL cells. Importantly, pharmacologic JNK inhibition partially mitigated the anti-survival effect of SAA, and inhibition of p38 and ERK synergized with SAA. Furthermore, SAA suppressed DLBCL tumor growth in a xenograft mouse model in vivo. Therefore, our data suggest the therapeutic utility of SAA in the management of DLBCL.

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