As part of our initial efforts into developing a tumor-targeting therapy, C-10 substituted derivatives of a camptothecin analog (SN-38) have been synthesized (2-, 3- and 4-nitrobenzyl) for use as potential hypoxia-activated prodrugs and evaluated for their cytotoxicity, topoisomerase I inhibition and electrochemical (reductive) properties. All three derivatives were found to possess reduced toxicity towards human leukemia K562 cells compared to SN-38, validating a condition for prodrug action. Using an MTS assay, IC50
’s were found to be 3.0, 25.9, 12.2 and 58.0 nM for SN-38, 2-nitro-, 3-nitro- and 4-nitrobenzyl-C10
-substituted-SN-38, respectively, representing an 8-, 4- and 19-fold decrease in cytotoxicity. Using a topoisomerase I assay, one of the analogs (4-nitrobenzyl) was shown to inhibit the ability of this enzyme to relax supercoiled pBR322 DNA, at a similar concentration to the clinically-approved active metabolite SN-38. Cyclic voltammetry detailed the reductive nature of the analogs, and was used to infer the potential of these compounds to serve as hypoxia-targeting prodrugs. The electrochemical results also validated the quasi-reversible nature of the first reduction step, and served as a proof-of-principle that hypoxia-targeting prodrugs of SN-38 can participate in a redox-futile cycle, the proposed mechanism of activation and targeting. Chemical reduction of the 4-nitrobenzyl analog led to the formation/release of SN-38 and validated the prodrug ability of the C-10 substituted derivative.
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