Avemar (MSC) is a nontoxic fermented wheat germ extract, which has been shown to significantly improve the survival rate in patients suffering from various malignancies. We investigated its effects in sensitive and 5-FdUrd/Ara-C cross-resistant H9 human lymphoma cells. After 48 and 72 h of incubation, Avemar inhibited the growth of sensitive H9 cells with IC50 values of 290 and 200 microg/ml, whereas the growth of 5-FdUrd/Ara-C cross-resistant H9 cells was attenuated with IC50 values of 180 and 145 microg/ml, respectively. Treatment with 300 microg/ml MSC for 48 h caused dose-dependent induction of apoptosis in 48% of sensitive H9 cells. In cross-resistant H9 cells, incubation with 200 microg/ml Avemar for 48 h led to 41% of apoptotic tumor cells. Growth arrest of sensitive H9 cells after exposure to various concentrations of MSC occurred mainly in the S phase of the cell cycle, thereby increasing the cell population from 54 to 73% while depleting cells in the G0-G1 phase from 40 to 19%. Growth arrest in cross-resistant H9 cells occurred also mainly in the S phase, increasing the cell population from 45 to 68% while depleting cells in the G0-G1 phase from 45 to 31%. As MSC treatment likely overcomes 5-FdUrd/Ara-C resistance, further investigations to elucidate the exact mechanisms are warranted. We conclude that Avemar exerts a number of beneficial effects which could support conventional chemotherapy of human malignancies.