Open Access Open Badges Research

Theophylline is able to partially revert cachexia in tumour-bearing rats

Mireia Olivan1*, Jochen Springer3, Sílvia Busquets12, Anika Tschirner3, Maite Figueras1, Miriam Toledo1, Cibely Fontes-Oliveira1, Maria Inés Genovese1, Paula Ventura da Silva1, Angelica Sette1, Francisco J López-Soriano12, Stefan Anker3 and Josep M Argilés12

Author Affiliations

1 Cancer Research Group, Departament de Bioquímica i Biologia Molecular, Facultat de Biologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Diagonal 645, Barcelona, 08028, Spain

2 Institut de Biomedicina de la Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain

3 Division of Applied Cachexia Research, Department of Cardiology, Charité Medical School, Berlin, Germany

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Nutrition & Metabolism 2012, 9:76  doi:10.1186/1743-7075-9-76

Published: 21 August 2012


Background and aims

The aim of the present investigation was to examine the anti-wasting effects of theophylline (a methylxantine present in tea leaves) on a rat model of cancer cachexia.


The in vitro effects of the nutraceuticals on proteolysis were examined on muscle cell cultures submitted to hyperthermia. Individual muscle weights, muscle gene expression, body composition and cardiac function were measured in rats bearing the Yoshida AH-130 ascites hepatoma, following theophylline treatment.


Theophylline treatment inhibited proteolysis in C2C12 cell line and resulted in an anti-proteolytic effect on muscle tissue (soleus and heart), which was associated with a decrease in circulating TNF-alpha levels and with a decreased proteolytic systems gene expression. Treatment with the nutraceutical also resulted in an improvement in body composition and cardiac function.


Theophylline - alone or in combination with drugs - may be a candidate molecule for the treatment of cancer cachexia.

Cachexia; Nutraceuticals; Muscle wasting; Proteolytic system; Heart