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Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 2001 Apr;47(4):355-60.

PNU-159548, a novel cytotoxic antitumor agent with a low cardiotoxic potential.

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Worldwide Toxicology, Pharmacia and Upjohn, 20014 Nerviano, Milan, Italy.



PNU-159548 (4-demethoxy-3'-deamino-3'aziridinyl-4'-methylsulphonyl-daunorubicin), a derivative of the anticancer idarubicin, has a broad spectrum of antitumoral activity in vitro and in vivo attributable to its DNA intercalating and alkylating properties. The present study was conducted to determine the cardiotoxic activity of PNU-159548 relative to doxorubicin in a chronic rat model sensitive to anthracycline-induced cardiomyopathy.


Young adult male rats were allocated to the following treatment groups: group 1, PNU-159548 vehicle control (colloidal dispersion); group 2, doxorubicin control (saline); groups 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7, PNU-159548 at 0.12, 0.25, 0.50, 0.75, and 1.0 mg/kg, respectively; and group 8, 1.0 mg/kg doxorubicin. Treatments were administered intravenously once weekly for 4 weeks (first sacrifice time) or for 7 weeks (rats killed at weeks 8, 12, 22, 27, or 35). Body weights, organ weights, serum chemistry, hematology, serum troponin-T, and cardiac histopathology were followed throughout the study.


Doxorubicin caused irreversible cardiomyopathy evident at week 4 in some rats and progressing in severity in all rats by week 8. There were also marked myelotoxicity, increased liver and kidney weights, testicular atrophy, and about 20% mortality by week 27 in doxorubicin-treated rats. The deaths were attributed to cardiomyopathy and/or nephropathy. PNU-159548 caused a dose-dependent myelotoxicity, with the dose of 0.5 mg/kg per week being equimyelotoxic to 1.0 mg/kg per week doxorubicin. PNU-159548 also caused an increase in liver weight that was reversible and a non-reversible testicular atrophy but, unlike doxorubicin, had no effect on kidney weight. At equimyelotoxic doses, the cardiotoxicity caused by PNU-159548, expressed as the mean total score, was less than one-twentieth of that induced by doxorubicin, and much less than that predicted on the basis of its content of idarubicin, which is in turn markedly less cardiotoxic than doxorubicin.


The novel cytotoxic antitumor derivative, PNU-159548, is significantly less cardiotoxic than doxorubicin at equimyelosuppressive doses. The combination of intercalating and alkylating activities within the same molecule without the cardiotoxic side effects of anthracyclines makes PNU-159548 an excellent candidate for clinical development in oncology.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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