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Invest New Drugs. 2012 Dec;30(6):2103-12. doi: 10.1007/s10637-011-9768-4. Epub 2011 Nov 22.

Identification of cyclohexanone derivatives that act as catalytic inhibitors of topoisomerase I: effects on tamoxifen-resistant MCF-7 cancer cells.

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Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.


Breast cancer is commonly treated with anti-estrogens or aromatase inhibitors, but resistant disease eventually develops and new therapies for such resistance are of great interest. We have previously isolated several tamoxifen-resistant variant sub-lines of the MCF-7 breast cancer cell line and provided evidence that they arose from expansion of pre-existing minor populations. We have searched for therapeutic agents that exhibit selective growth inhibition of the resistant lines and here investigate 2,6-bis(pyridin-3-ylmethylene)-cyclohexanone (RL90) and 2,6-bis(pyridin-4-ylmethylene)-cyclohexanone (RL91). We found that two of the tamoxifen-resistant sub-lines (TamR3 and TamC3) unexpectedly showed increased sensitivity to RL90 and RL91. We utilized growth inhibition assays, flow cytometry and immunoblotting to establish a mechanistic basis for their action. Treated sensitive cells showed S-phase selective DNA damage, as detected by histone H2AX phosphorylation. Cellular responses were similar to those induced by the topoisomerase I poison camptothecin. Although IC(50) values of camptothecin, RL90, RL91 were correlated, studies with purified mammalian topoisomerase I suggested that RL90 and RL91 differed from camptothecin by acting as catalytic topoisomerase I inhibitors. These drugs provide a platform for the further development of DNA damaging drugs that have selective effects on tamoxifen resistant breast cancer cells. The results also raise the question of whether clinical topoisomerase I poisons such as irinotecan and topotecan might be active in the treatment of some types of tamoxifen-resistant cancer.

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