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Arch Biochem Biophys. 2003 Jan 1;409(1):197-206.

Identification of novel enzyme-prodrug combinations for use in cytochrome P450-based gene therapy for cancer.

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Division of Cell and Molecular Biology, Department of Biology, Boston University, 5 Cummington St., MA 02215, USA.


Gene-directed enzyme prodrug therapy can be used to increase the therapeutic activity of anti-cancer prodrugs that undergo liver cytochrome P450 (CYP)-catalyzed prodrug to active drug conversion. The present report describes a cell-culture-based assay to identify CYP gene-CYP prodrug combinations that generate bystander cytotoxic metabolites and that may potentially be useful for CYP-based gene therapy for cancer. A panel of rat liver microsomes, comprising distinct subsets of drug-inducible hepatic CYPs, was evaluated for prodrug activation in a four-day 9L gliosarcoma cell growth inhibition assay. A strong NADPH- and liver microsome-dependent increase in 9L cytotoxicity was observed for the CYP prodrugs cyclophosphamide, ifosfamide, and methoxymorpholinyl doxorubicin (MMDX) but not with three other CYP prodrugs, procarbazine, dacarbazine, and tamoxifen. MMDX activation was potentiated approximately 250-fold by liver microsomes from dexamethasone-induced rats (IC(50) (MMDX) approximately 0.1nM), suggesting that dexamethasone-inducible CYP3A enzymes contribute to activation of this novel anthracycline anti-tumor agent. This CYP3A dependence was verified in studies using liver microsomes from uninduced male and female rats and by using the CYP3A-selective inhibitors troleandomycin and ketoconazole. These findings highlight the advantages of using cell culture assays to identify novel CYP prodrug-CYP gene combinations that are characterized by production of cell-permeable, cytotoxic metabolites and that may potentially be incorporated into CYP-based gene therapies for cancer treatment.

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