Caffeine markedly sensitizes human mesothelioma cell lines to pemetrexed

Cancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology. 2007 Jun 27; [Epub ahead of print] [Link]

Sang Hee Min1, I. David Goldman1 and Rongbao Zhao1, 2

  • (1) Departments of Medicine and Molecular Pharmacology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY 10461, USA
  • (2) Chanin 628, 1300 Morris Park Ave, Bronx, NY 10461, USA


Pemetrexed is a new generation antifolate approved for the treatment of mesothelioma and non-small cell lung cancer. Caffeine is known to augment radiation or chemotherapeutic drug-induced cell killing. The current study addresses the impact of caffeine on the activity of pemetrexed in mesothelioma cell lines. Caffeine enhanced pemetrexed activity in all four mesothelioma cell lines tested (H2052, H2373, H28 and MSTO-211H). Caffeine sensitized H2052 cells in a dose- and schedule-dependent manner, and was associated with a markedly decreased clonogenic survival. Caffeine sensitization occurred only in cells subjected to pulse, but not continuous, exposure to pemetrexed. Similar pemetrexed sensitization was also observed with the clinically better tolerated caffeine analog, theobromine. Pemetrexed sensitization by caffeine was associated with an increase in pemetrexed-induced phosphorylation of ataxia-telangiectasia-mutated (ATM) and Chk1. These data indicate that caffeine and its analog, theobromine, may be a useful approach to enhance pemetrexed-based chemotherapy.

Keywords: Pemetrexed, Caffeine, Theobromine, Mesothelioma