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Clin Cancer Res. 2013 Jun 1;19(11):3019-31. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-12-3752. Epub 2013 Apr 12.

In vitro and in vivo antitumor activity of a novel alkylating agent, melphalan-flufenamide, against multiple myeloma cells.

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The LeBow Institute for Myeloma Therapeutics and Jerome Lipper Myeloma Center, Department of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.



The alkylating agent melphalan prolongs survival in patients with multiple myeloma; however, it is associated with toxicities and development of drug-resistance. Here, we evaluated the efficacy of melphalan-flufenamide (mel-flufen), a novel dipeptide prodrug of melphalan in multiple myeloma.


Multiple myeloma cell lines, primary patient cells, and the human multiple myeloma xenograft animal model were used to study the antitumor activity of mel-flufen.


Low doses of mel-flufen trigger more rapid and higher intracellular concentrations of melphalan in multiple myeloma cells than are achievable by free melphalan. Cytotoxicity analysis showed significantly lower IC50 of mel-flufen than melphalan in multiple myeloma cells. Importantly, mel-flufen induces apoptosis even in melphalan- and bortezomib-resistant multiple myeloma cells. Mechanistic studies show that siRNA knockdown of aminopeptidase N, a key enzyme mediating intracellular conversion of mel-flufen to melphalan, attenuates anti-multiple myeloma activity of mel-flufen. Furthermore, mel-flufen-induced apoptosis was associated with: (i) activation of caspases and PARP cleavage; (ii) reactive oxygen species generation; (iii) mitochondrial dysfunction and release of cytochrome c; and (iv) induction of DNA damage. Moreover, mel-flufen inhibits multiple myeloma cell migration and tumor-associated angiogenesis. Human multiple myeloma xenograft studies showed a more potent inhibition of tumor growth in mice treated with mel-flufen than mice receiving equimolar doses of melphalan. Finally, combining mel-flufen with lenalidomide, bortezomib, or dexamethasone triggers synergistic anti-multiple myeloma activity.


Our preclinical study supports clinical evaluation of mel-flufen to enhance therapeutic potential of melphalan, overcome drug-resistance, and improve multiple myeloma patient outcome.

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