Methadone-mediated sensitization of glioblastoma cells is drug and cell line dependent

Bodo Haas, Janine Ciftcioglu, Sanja Jermar, Sandra Weickhardt, Niels Eckstein, Bernd Kaina
2020 Journal of Cancer Research and Clinical Oncology  
Purpose d,l-methadone (MET), an analgesic drug used for pain treatment and opiate addiction, has achieved attention from oncologists and social media as possible chemoensitizing agent in cancer therapy, notably brain cancer (glioblastoma multiforme, GBM). MET has been reported to enhance doxorubicin-induced cytotoxicity in GBM cells via activation of the µ-opioid receptor (MOR). Here, we extended this work and quantified the toxic effect of MET in comparison to other opioids alone and in
more » ... alone and in combination with doxorubicin and the clinically more relevant alkylating drug temozolomide (TMZ), using a set of GBM cell lines and primary GBM cells. Methods MOR expression in GBM cells was investigated by immunofluorescence and immunoblotting. Resistance to drugs alone and in combination with anticancer drugs was assessed by MTT assays. Concentration effect curves were fitted by nonlinear regression analysis and IC50 values were calculated. Apoptosis and necrosis rates were determined by annexin V/propidium iodide (PI)-flow cytometry. Results MET alone was cytotoxic in all GBM cell lines and primary GBM cells at high micromolar concentrations (IC50 ~ 60–130 µM), observed both in the metabolic MTT assay and by quantifying apoptosis and necrosis, while morphine and oxycodone were not cytotoxic in this concentration range. Naloxone was not able to block MET-induced cytotoxicity, indicating that cell death-inducing effects of MET are not MOR-dependent. We recorded doxorubicin and TMZ concentration- response curves in combination with fixed MET concentrations. MET enhanced doxorubicin-induced cytotoxicity in only one cell line, and in primary cells it was observed only in a particular MET concentration range. In all assays, MET was not effective in sensitizing cells to TMZ. In two cell lines, MET even decreased the cell's sensitivity to TMZ. Conclusion MET was found to be cytotoxic in GBM cells in vitro only at high, clinically not relevant concentrations, where it was effective in inducing apoptosis and necrosis. Sensitizing effects were only observed in combination with doxorubicin, but not with TMZ, and are dependent on cell line and the applied drug concentration. Therefore, our findings do not support the use of MET in the treatment of GBM in combination with TMZ, as no sensitizing effect of MET was observed.
doi:10.1007/s00432-020-03485-3 pmid:33315125 fatcat:6kcmau5y3farxd6f5kgigie2am