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Curr Med Chem. 2001 Jul;8(9):1093-122.

Anticancer prodrugs for application in monotherapy: targeting hypoxia, tumor-associated enzymes, and receptors.

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  • 1Department of Organic Chemistry, NSR-Center for Molecular Structure, Design and Synthesis, University of Nijmegen, Toernooiveld 1, Nijmegen, 6525 ED, The Netherlands.


In order to improve current chemotherapeutic treatment and diminish severe side effects, several prodrug strategies have evolved to achieve site-specific delivery of cytotoxic anticancer agents. This review concentrates on recent developments of antitumor prodrug monotherapy with prodrugs that are designed for direct recognition of tumor-associated factors, such as hypoxia, tumor-associated enzymes and receptors. Firstly, oxygen deficiency in the core of solid tumors leads to enhanced activity of reducing enzymes, like for example nitroreductases, which can be used for site- specific conversion of prodrug to drug. Secondly, some enzymes are present in elevated levels in tumor tissue: beta-glucuronidase leaks from necrotic areas within tumors, while tumor cells for invasive and metastatic activities need several tumor-associated proteases, like plasmin. These enzymes form an attractive target for designing selective prodrugs. Finally, tumor-selective expression of receptors can be exploited for the delivery of antitumor agents. Low molecular weight binding motifs for these receptors can be coupled to cytotoxic drugs in order to obtain tumor-homing conjugates. At present, receptor-binding motifs for a number of receptors that are required for angiogenesis are used for prodrug monotherapy. There exists an increasing body of literature, which describes the complex interplay not only between tumor-associated enzymes, but also between these enzymes and tumor-associated receptors in the process of tumor invasion and metastasis, indicating the feasibility of targeting cytotoxic drugs to these key players in tumor growth. This paper reviews the development and evaluation of anticancer prodrugs, and their application in the various prodrug monotherapy approaches.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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