Although cyclophosphamide (CP) has been used successfully in the clinic for over 50 years, it has so far not been possible to elucidate the mechanism of action and to use it for improvement. This was not possible because the basis of the mechanism of action of CP, which was found by lucky coincidence, is apoptosis, the discovery of which was honored with the Nobel Prize only in 2002. Another reason was that results from cell culture experiments were used to elucidate the mechanism of action, ignoring the fact that in vivo metabolism differs from in vitro conditions. In vitro, toxic acrolein is formed during the formation of the cytotoxic metabolite phosphoreamidemustard (PAM), whereas in vivo proapoptotic hydroxypropanal (HPA) is formed. The CP metabolites formed in sequence 4-hydroxycyclophosphamide (OHCP) are the main cause of toxicity, aldophosphamide (ALDO) is the pharmacologically active metabolite and HPA amplifies the cytotoxic apoptosis initiated by DNA alkylation by PAM. It is shown that toxicity is drastically reduced but anti-tumor activity strongly increased by the formation of ALDO bypassing OHCP. Furthermore, it is shown that the anti-tumor activity against advanced solid P388 tumors that grow on CD2F1 mice is increased by orders of magnitude if DNA damage caused by a modified PAM is poorly repairable.
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