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Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 2012 Sep;70(3):439-49. doi: 10.1007/s00280-012-1925-8. Epub 2012 Jul 22.

Targeting HER2-positive cancer with dolastatin 15 derivatives conjugated to trastuzumab, novel antibody-drug conjugates.

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  • 1Drugs and Biomaterials R&D, Genzyme a Sanofi Company, Cambridge, MA 02142, USA.



Targeting tubulin binders to cancer cells using antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) has great potential to become an effective cancer treatment with low normal tissue toxicity. The nature of the linker used to tether the tubulin binder to the antibody and the conjugation sites on the antibody and the small molecule are important factors in the ADC stability and effectiveness.


We explored the use of tubulin-targeting dolastatin 15 derivatives (Dol15) tethered covalently to a representative antibody, trastuzumab, via cleavable and non-cleavable linkers at varying antibody reactive sites (i.e., lysine residues, partially reduced hinge region disulfide bonds) and drug coupling sites (i.e., C-terminus, N-terminus), to investigate which constructs were more effective in killing HER2-positive cells in vitro and in vivo.


We found that Dol15 conjugated to trastuzumab via lysine residues at the drug C-terminus using a non-cleavable linker (trastuzumab-amide-C-term-Dol15) produced target-dependent growth inhibition of cells endogenously expressing high HER2 levels (i.e., SK-BR-3, SK-OV-3) in vitro. This ADC was effective at varying doses (i.e., 10 and 20 mg/kg) in the SK-OV-3 human ovarian cancer xenograft.


Tethering Dol15 via partially reduced disulfide bonds at the drug C-terminus via a non-cleavable linker (trastuzumab-MC-C-term-Dol15) resulted in an equally effective ADC in vitro, showing that site of antibody conjugation did not influence ADC activity. However, tethering Dol15 at the drug N-terminus using non-cleavable and cleavable linkers (trastuzumab-MC-N-term-Dol15 and trastuzumab-MC-VC-PABC-N-term-Dol15, respectively) resulted in ineffective ADCs. Thus, Dol15 tethered at the C-terminus may be a useful tubulin-targeting agent for conjugation at various antibody reactive sites.

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