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Mol Cancer Ther. 2008 Sep;7(9):3029-37. doi: 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-08-0280.

Novel opportunities for thymidylate metabolism as a therapeutic target.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Room 5322, 1441 Eastlake Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90089, USA.


For over 40 years, the fluoropyrimidine 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) has remained the central agent in therapeutic regimens employed in the treatment of colorectal cancer and is frequently combined with the DNA-damaging agents oxaliplatin and irinotecan, increasing response rates and improving overall survival. However, many patients will derive little or no benefit from treatment, highlighting the need to identify novel therapeutic targets to improve the efficacy of current 5-FU-based chemotherapeutic strategies. dUTP nucleotidohydrolase (dUTPase) catalyzes the hydrolysis of dUTP to dUMP and PPi, providing substrate for thymidylate synthase (TS) and DNA synthesis and repair. Although dUTP is a normal intermediate in DNA synthesis, its accumulation and misincorporation into DNA as uracil is lethal. Importantly, uracil misincorporation represents an important mechanism of cytotoxicity induced by the TS-targeted class of chemotherapeutic agents including 5-FU. A growing body of evidence suggests that dUTPase is an important mediator of response to TS-targeted agents. In this article, we present further evidence showing that elevated expression of dUTPase can protect breast cancer cells from the expansion of the intracellular uracil pool, translating to reduced growth inhibition following treatment with 5-FU. We therefore report the implementation of in silico drug development techniques to identify and develop small-molecule inhibitors of dUTPase. As 5-FU and the oral 5-FU prodrug capecitabine remain central agents in the treatment of a variety of malignancies, the clinical utility of a small-molecule inhibitor to dUTPase represents a viable strategy to improve the clinical efficacy of these mainstay chemotherapeutic agents.

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