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Eur J Cancer. 2001 Jan;37(1):97-105.

Ecteinascidin-743 (ET-743), a natural marine compound, with a unique mechanism of action.

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Department of Oncology, Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche 'Mario Negri' Via Eritrea 62, 20157, Milan, Italy.


The mode of action of Ecteinascidin-743 (ET-743), a marine tetrahydroisoquinoline alkaloid isolated from Ecteinascidia turbinata, which has shown very potent antitumour activity in preclinical systems and encouraging results in Phase I clinical trials was investigated at a cellular level. Both SW620 and LoVo human intestinal carcinoma cell lines exposed for 1 h to ET-743 progress through S phase more slowly than control cells and then accumulate in the G2M phase. The sensitivity to ET-743 of G1 synchronised cells was much higher than that of cells synchronised in S phase and even higher than that of cells synchronised in G2M. ET-743 concentrations up to four times higher than the IC(50) value caused no detectable DNA breaks or DNA-protein cross-links as assessed by alkaline elution techniques. ET-743 induced a significant increase in p53 levels in cell lines expressing wild-type (wt) (p53). However, the p53 status does not appear to be related to the ET-743 cytotoxic activity as demonstrated by comparing the drug sensitivity in p53 (-/-) or (+/+) mouse embryo fibroblasts and in A2780 ovarian cancer cells or the A2780/CX3 sub-line transfected with a dominant-negative mutant TP53. The cytotoxic potency of ET-743 was comparatively evaluated in CHO cell lines proficient or deficient in nucleotide excision repair (NER), and it was found that ET-743 was approximately 7-8 times less active in ERCC3/XPB and ERCC1-deficient cells than control cells. The findings that G1 phase cells are hypersensitive and that NER-deficient cells are resistant to ET-743 indicate that the mode of action of ET-743 is unique and different from that of other DNA-interacting drugs.

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