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Clin Cancer Res. 2013 Jun 1;19(11):2952-61. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-13-0238. Epub 2013 Apr 15.

Colon cancer-specific cytochrome P450 2W1 converts duocarmycin analogues into potent tumor cytotoxins.

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Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Section of Pharmacogenetics, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.



Cytochrome P450 2W1 (CYP2W1) is a monooxygenase detected in 30% of colon cancers, whereas its expression in nontransformed adult tissues is absent, rendering it a tumor-specific drug target for development of novel colon cancer chemotherapy. Previously, we have identified duocarmycin synthetic derivatives as CYP2W1 substrates. In this study, we investigated whether two of these compounds, ICT2705 and ICT2706, could be activated by CYP2W1 into potent antitumor agents.


The cytotoxic activity of ICT2705 and ICT2706 in vitro was tested in colon cancer cell lines expressing CYP2W1, and in vivo studies with ICT2706 were conducted on severe combined immunodeficient mice bearing CYP2W1-positive colon cancer xenografts.


Cells expressing CYP2W1 suffer rapid loss of viability following treatment with ICT2705 and ICT2706, whereas the CYP2W1-positive human colon cancer xenografts display arrested growth in the mice treated with ICT2706. The specific cytotoxic metabolite generated by CYP2W1 metabolism of ICT2706 was identified in vitro. The cytotoxic events were accompanied by an accumulation of phosphorylated H2A.X histone, indicating DNA damage as a mechanism for cancer cell toxicity. This cytotoxic effect is most likely propagated by a bystander killing mechanism shown in colon cancer cells. Pharmacokinetic analysis of ICT2706 in mice identified higher concentration of the compound in tumor than in plasma, indicating preferential accumulation of drug in the target tissue.


Our findings suggest a novel approach for treatment of colon cancer that uses a locoregional activation of systemically inactive prodrug by the tumor-specific activator enzyme CYP2W1.

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