Inhibition of homologous recombination repair with Pentoxifylline targets G2 cells generated by radiotherapy and induces major enhancements of the toxicity of cisplatin and melphalan given after irradiation

Radiat Oncol. 2006 May 3;1:12. doi: 10.1186/1748-717X-1-12.


The presentation reviews the modus operandi of the dose modifying drug Pentoxifylline and the dose enhancement factors which can be achieved in different cell types. Preclinical and clinical data show that Pentoxifylline improves the oxygenation of hypoxic tumours and enhances tumour control by irradiation. In vitro experiments demonstrate that Pentoxifylline also operates when oxygen is not limiting and produces dose modifying factors in the region of 1.2-2.0. This oxygen independent effect is poorly understood. In p53 mutant cells irradiation induces a G2 block which is abrogated by Pentoxifylline. The enhancement of cell kill observed when Pentoxifylline and irradiation are given together could arise from rapid entry of damaged tumour cells into mitosis and propagation of DNA lesions as the result of curtailment of repair time. Recovery ratios and repair experiments using CFGE after high dose irradiation demonstrate that Pentoxifylline inhibits repair directly and that curtailment of repair time is not the explanation. Use of the repair defective xrs1 and the parental repair competent CHO-K1 cell line shows that Pentoxifylline inhibits homologous recombination repair which operates predominantly in the G2 phase of the cell cycle. When irradiated cells residing in G2 phase are exposed to very low doses of cisplatin at a toxic dose of 5%. (TC: 0.05) massive toxicity enhancements up to a factor of 80 are observed in melanoma, squamous carcinoma and prostate tumour cell lines. Enhancements of radiotoxicity seen when Pentoxifylline and radiation are applied together are small and do not exceed a factor of 2.0. The capacity of Pentoxifyline to inhibit homologous recombination repair has not as yet been clinically utilized. A suitable application could be in the treatment of cervical carcinoma where irradiation and cisplatin are standard modality. In vitro data also strongly suggest that regimes where irradiation is used in combination with alkylating drugs may also benefit.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / administration & dosage
  • CHO Cells
  • Cisplatin / administration & dosage*
  • Cisplatin / toxicity
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Cricetinae
  • Cricetulus
  • DNA Repair / drug effects*
  • DNA Repair / radiation effects*
  • G2 Phase
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Melphalan / administration & dosage*
  • Melphalan / toxicity
  • Pentoxifylline / administration & dosage*
  • Radiation-Protective Agents / administration & dosage
  • Radiotherapy / methods*
  • Recombination, Genetic / drug effects*
  • Recombination, Genetic / radiation effects*


  • Radiation-Protective Agents
  • Cisplatin
  • Melphalan
  • Pentoxifylline