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Cancer Res. 2001 Apr 1;61(7):2843-6.

Extracellularly tumor-activated prodrugs for the selective chemotherapy of cancer: application to doxorubicin and preliminary in vitro and in vivo studies.

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Université Catholique de Louvain, Laboratory of Cell Biology, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.


Oligopeptidic derivatives of anthracyclines unable to penetrate cells were prepared and screened for their stability in human blood and their reactivation by peptidases secreted by cancer cells. N-beta-alanyl-L-leucyl-L-alanyl-L-leucyl-doxorubicin was selected as a new candidate prodrug. The NH2-terminal beta-alanine allows a very good blood stability. A two-step activation by peptidases found in conditioned media of cancer cells ultimately yields N-L-leucyl-doxorubicin. In vitro, when MCF-7/6 cancer cells are exposed to the prodrug, they accumulate about 14 times more doxorubicin than MRC-5 normal fibroblasts, whereas when exposed to doxorubicin the uptake is slightly higher in fibroblasts than in MCF-7/6 cells. This increased specificity of the prodrug over doxorubicin was confirmed in cytotoxicity assays using the same cell types. In vivo, the prodrug proved about nine times less toxic than doxorubicin in the normal mouse and also much more efficient in two different experimental chemotherapy models of human breast tumors.

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