Molecular pathways involved in the synergistic interaction of the PKC beta inhibitor enzastaurin with the antifolate pemetrexed in non-small cell lung cancer cells

Br J Cancer. 2008 Sep 2;99(5):750-9. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6604566. Epub 2008 Aug 19.


Conventional regimens have limited impact against non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Current research is focusing on multiple pathways as potential targets, and this study investigated molecular mechanisms underlying the combination of the PKC beta inhibitor enzastaurin with the multitargeted antifolate pemetrexed in the NSCLC cells SW1573 and A549. Pharmacologic interaction was studied using the combination-index method, while cell cycle, apoptosis induction, VEGF secretion and ERK1/2 and Akt phosphorylation were studied by flow cytometry and ELISAs. Reverse transcription-PCR, western blot and activity assays were performed to assess whether enzastaurin influenced thymidylate synthase (TS) and the expression of multiple targets involved in cancer signaling and cell cycle distribution. Enzastaurin-pemetrexed combination was highly synergistic and significantly increased apoptosis. Enzastaurin reduced both phosphoCdc25C, resulting in G2/M checkpoint abrogation and apoptosis induction in pemetrexed-damaged cells, and GSK3 beta and Akt phosphorylation, which was additionally reduced by drug combination (-58% in A549). Enzastaurin also significantly reduced pemetrexed-induced upregulation of TS expression, possibly through E2F-1 reduction, whereas the combination decreased TS in situ activity (>50% in both cell lines) and VEGF secretion. The effects of enzastaurin on signaling pathways involved in cell cycle control, apoptosis and angiogenesis, as well as on the expression of genes involved in pemetrexed activity provide a strong experimental basis to their evaluation as pharmacodynamic markers in clinical trials of enzastaurin-pemetrexed combination in NSCLC patients.

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Blotting, Western
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / enzymology
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / pathology*
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 / metabolism
  • Drug Synergism
  • Folic Acid Antagonists / pharmacology*
  • Glutamates / pharmacology*
  • Guanine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Guanine / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Indoles / pharmacology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Lung Neoplasms / genetics
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Pemetrexed
  • Phosphorylation
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Protein Kinase C / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Protein Kinase C / metabolism
  • Protein Kinase C beta
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / metabolism


  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Folic Acid Antagonists
  • Glutamates
  • Indoles
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Pemetrexed
  • Guanine
  • Cyclooxygenase 2
  • Protein Kinase C
  • Protein Kinase C beta
  • enzastaurin