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Mol Pharm. 2010 Dec 6;7(6):2255-69. doi: 10.1021/mp100235w. Epub 2010 Nov 8.

Translocator protein (TSPO) ligand-Ara-C (cytarabine) conjugates as a strategy to deliver antineoplastic drugs and to enhance drug clinical potential.

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Dipartimento Farmaco-Chimico, Facoltà di Farmacia, Università degli Studi di Bari, Via Orabona 4, 70125 Bari, Italy.


The aim of this work was to evaluate TSPO ligand-Ara-C conjugation as an approach for the selective delivery of the antineoplastic agent to brain tumors as well as for overcome P-gp resistance induction observed for the majority of cytotoxic agents, enhancing the drug clinical potential. To this end, the novel N-imidazopyridinacetyl-Ara-C conjugates 3a-c, 10 and 15 have been prepared and evaluated for their cytotoxicity against glioma cell lines. In contrast to that observed for 3a-c and 10, the conjugate 15 resulted stable in both phosphate buffer and physiological medium. In all cases, the release of free Ara-C from hydrolyzed conjugates was checked by HPLC and ESI-MS analysis. Conjugates 10 and 15 displayed very high in vitro TSPO affinity and selectivity, and, hence, they may possess potential for targeted brain delivery. Due to the favorable features displayed by the conjugate 15, it was further evaluated on glioma cell lines, expressing high levels of TSPO, in the presence and in the absence of specific nucleoside transport (NT) inhibitors. In contrast to that observed for the free Ara-C, the presence of NT inhibitors did not reduce the cytotoxic activity of 15. Moreover, conjugate 15, as N(4)-acyl derivative of Ara-C, should be resistant to inactivation by cytidine deaminase, and it may possess enhanced propensity to target brain tumor cells characterized by a reduced expression of NTs. In addition, this conjugate behaves as a clear P-gp modulator and thereby may be useful to reverse MDR. Transport studies across the MDCKII-MDR1 monolayer indicated that conjugate 15 should overcome the BBB by transcellular pathway. All these features may be useful for enhancing the clinical potential of the nucleoside drug Ara-C.

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