Every cup of coffee may contain a strong agent that is effective at increasing the efficacy of anti-lung cancer medication: caffeine. This finding was part of a new study from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan that explored the effects of caffeine on cisplatin-induced lung cancer cell death. By inhibiting one protein and activating another, caffeine increased lung cancer death in vitro.
As described in “The Effect of Caffeine on Cisplatin-Induced Apoptosis of Lung Cancer Cells,” which was published in Experimental Hematology & Oncology, lead author Dr. Gan Wang was interested in the interaction between caffeine, a ubiquitous ingredient in many foods and beverages, and proteins in lung cancer cells. Specifically, Dr. Wang knew that caffeine could inhibit the proteins ATM and ATR, which are vital to the process of cell death. Since consuming caffeine is known to reduce the risk of developing certain cancers by inhibiting DNA repair of drug-damaged cancer cells, Dr. Wang wanted to test the hypothesis that caffeine enhances the effect of cisplatin on lung cancer cells.
When testing the effects of caffeine on two different lung cancer cell lines, the team applied a caffeine concentration below the level found in a standard cup of coffee. By applying caffeine and cisplatin together, the team stimulated the activation of caspase-3, a protein that dictates the decision to undergo cell death, in lung cancer cells. The effect was greater when caffeine was present than when cisplatin was applied alone.
In addition to stimulating cell death, cisplatin with caffeine inhibited cancer cell growth. “In fact, the number of cells was significantly more decreased for the cells treated with both caffeine and cisplatin than the untreated cells or the cells treated with cisplatin alone at three and four days for both [lung cancer cell lines],” wrote the authors.
In concluding the study, the authors looked for a mechanism behind the anti-cancer effects of caffeine with cisplatin and identified an inhibition of ATR activity but an activation of ATM. This caused cell cycle arrest, hence the decrease in cell growth. “Therefore, it is possible that caffeine consumption provides many beneficial effects, including its effect on cancer prevention and treatment,” concluded Dr. Wang.