Potentiation of DNA-damage-induced cytotoxicity by G2 checkpoint abrogators

Curr Med Chem Anticancer Agents. 2003 Jan;3(1):35-46. doi: 10.2174/1568011033353533.


Cell cycle checkpoints are activated in response to DNA-damage to ensure that accurate copies of the cellular genome are passed on to the next generation and to avoid replication and segregation of damaged DNA. These cellular control systems can be overcome by combining conventional DNA-damaging agents with compounds that target the cell cycle regulatory pathways, to enhance cytotoxicity. Tumor cells often comprise a corrupted G(1) cell cycle checkpoint while the G(2) cell cycle checkpoint is still intact. This review describes the concept of G(2) checkpoint abrogation with recognized (methylxanthines, UCN-01) and novel G(2) checkpoint abrogators to potentiate the cytotoxicity of DNA-damaging drugs and ionizing radiation. It illustrates the potential of G(2) checkpoint abrogators to preferentially sensitize p53-mutated, treatment resistant tumor cells for genotoxic treatment. Identification of the targets of caffeine and UCN-01 to be key-players of the G(2) checkpoint (ATM/ATR and Chk1, respectively) promoted the search for novel inhibitors of this checkpoint. Even though a direct causal link between G(2) checkpoint abrogation and chemo-/radiosensitization is difficult to prove the multitude of these novel compounds validate that inhibition of critical elements of the G(2) checkpoint (ATM/ATR-Chk1/Chk2-CDC25C-cascade) potentiates the cytotoxicity of DNA-damaging agents.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alkaloids
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Caffeine / chemistry
  • Caffeine / pharmacology
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • DNA Damage / drug effects*
  • DNA Damage / radiation effects
  • Drug Synergism
  • G2 Phase / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Staurosporine / analogs & derivatives
  • Xanthines / chemistry
  • Xanthines / pharmacology


  • Alkaloids
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Xanthines
  • methylxanthine
  • Caffeine
  • 7-hydroxystaurosporine
  • Staurosporine