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Cancer Res. 2010 Sep 15;70(18):7232-41. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-10-0766. Epub 2010 Sep 7.

Discovery and canine preclinical assessment of a nontoxic procaspase-3-activating compound.

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Departments of Biochemistry, Chemistry, Veterinary Biosciences, and Veterinary Clinical Medicine, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801, USA.


A critical event in the apoptotic cascade is the proteolytic activation of procaspases to active caspases. The caspase autoactivating compound PAC-1 induces cancer cell apoptosis and exhibits antitumor activity in murine xenograft models when administered orally as a lipid-based formulation or implanted s.c. as a cholesterol pellet. However, high doses of PAC-1 were found to induce neurotoxicity, prompting us to design and assess a novel PAC-1 derivative called S-PAC-1. Similar to PAC-1, S-PAC-1 activated procaspase-3 and induced cancer cell apoptosis. However, S-PAC-1 did not induce neurotoxicity in mice or dogs. Continuous i.v. infusion of S-PAC-1 in dogs led to a steady-state plasma concentration of ∼10 μmol/L for 24 to 72 hours. In a small efficacy trial of S-PAC-1, evaluation of six pet dogs with lymphoma revealed that S-PAC-1 was well tolerated and that the treatments induced partial tumor regression or stable disease in four of six subjects. Our results support this canine setting for further evaluation of small-molecule procaspase-3 activators, including S-PAC-1, a compound that is an excellent candidate for further clinical evaluation as a novel cancer chemotherapeutic.

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