Objective: In the present study, we attempted to identify the effects of fenofibrate on human cervical cancer cells. Methods: The cytotoxicity of fenofibrate in cervical cancer cells was determined by Cell Counting Kit-8. Immunoblotting assay was used to determine the protein expression of caspase-3, poly ADP-ribose polymerase cleavage, B-cell lymphoma 2 family protein expression, microtubule-associated protein 1A/1B-light chain 3 (LC3), as well as cyclins and cyclin-dependent kinases. Immunofluorescence imaging was used to determine the expression of cleaved caspase-3 and LC3. Flow cytometry was used to determine cell cycle and apoptosis. Results: We first showed that fenofibrate treatment reduced cell viability in HeLa cervical cancer cells in a dose-dependent manner at 24 h and 48 h. Importantly, fenofibrate-induced cell death was mediated through cell cycle arrest in the G0–G1 phase and caspase-dependent apoptosis. Moreover, fenofibrate also induced autophagy activation in a dose-dependent manner and pharmacological inhibition of autophagy led to increase of sub-G1 phase and caspase-dependent cell death in HeLa cells. Conclusion: In conclusion, these data demonstrated that fenofibrate initially induced cell cycle arrest, followed by caspase-3-dependent cell death in cervical cancer HeLa cells. However, fenofibrate also induced autophagy activation, which is closely related to the survival of diverse cancer cells, thus reducing the anticancer effects of fenofibrate. Therefore, the combination of an autophagy inhibitor and fenofibrate might have the potential to become a new therapeutic strategy for cervical cancer.

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