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Br J Cancer. 1999 Mar;79(9-10):1356-65.

New semisynthetic vinca alkaloids: chemical, biochemical and cellular studies.

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Institute of Enzymology, Biological Research Center, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest.


A new semisynthetic anti-tumour bis-indol compound, KAR-2 [3'-(beta-chloroethyl)-2',4'-dioxo-3,5'-spiro-oxazolidino-4-dea cetoxy-vinblastine] with lower toxicity than vinca alkaloids used in chemotherapy binds to calmodulin but, in contrast to vinblastine, does not exhibit anti-calmodulin activity. To investigate whether the modest chemical modification of bis-indol structure is responsible for the lack of anti-calmodulin potency and for the different pharmacological effects, new derivatives have been synthesized for comparative studies. The synthesis of the KAR derivatives are presented. The comparative studies showed that the spiro-oxazolidino ring and the substitution of a formyl group to a methyl one were responsible for the lack of anti-calmodulin activities. The new derivatives, similar to the mother compounds, inhibited the tubulin assembly in polymerization tests in vitro, however their inhibitory effect was highly dependent on the organization state of microtubules; bundled microtubules appeared to be resistant against the drugs. The maximal cytotoxic activities of KAR derivatives in in vivo mice hosting leukaemia P388 or Ehrlich ascites tumour cells appeared similar to that of vinblastine or vincristine, however significant prolongation of life span could be reached with KAR derivatives only after the administration of a single dose. These studies plus data obtained using a cultured human neuroblastoma cell line showed that KAR compounds displayed their cytotoxic activities at significantly higher concentrations than the mother compounds, although their antimicrotubular activities were similar in vitro. These data suggest that vinblastine/vincristine damage additional crucial cell functions, one of which could be related to calmodulin-mediated processes.

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