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J Cancer Res Clin Oncol. 2017 Aug;143(8):1499-1529. doi: 10.1007/s00432-017-2457-8. Epub 2017 Jun 17.

Clinical pharmacology and clinical trials of ribonucleotide reductase inhibitors: is it a viable cancer therapy?

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Clinical Pharmacology Program, Medical Oncology Branch, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD, 20892, USA.
Department of Biopharmaceutical Sciences, Roosevelt University College of Pharmacy, 1400 N. Roosevelt Blvd., Schaumburg, IL, 60173, USA.



Ribonucleotide reductase (RR) enzymes (RR1 and RR2) play an important role in the reduction of ribonucleotides to deoxyribonucleotides which is involved in DNA replication and repair. Augmented RR activity has been ascribed to uncontrolled cell growth and tumorigenic transformation.


This review mainly focuses on several biological and chemical RR inhibitors (e.g., siRNA, GTI-2040, GTI-2501, triapine, gemcitabine, and clofarabine) that have been evaluated in clinical trials with promising anticancer activity from 1960's till 2016. A summary on whether their monotherapy or combination is still effective for further use is discussed.


Among the RR2 inhibitors evaluated, GTI-2040, siRNA, gallium nitrate and didox were more efficacious as a monotherapy, whereas triapine was found to be more efficacious as combination agent. Hydroxyurea is currently used more in combination therapy, even though it is efficacious as a monotherapy. Gallium nitrate showed mixed results in combination therapy, while the combination activity of didox is yet to be evaluated. RR1 inhibitors that have long been used in chemotherapy such as gemcitabine, cladribine, fludarabine and clofarabine are currently used mostly as a combination therapy, but are equally efficacious as a monotherapy, except tezacitabine which did not progress beyond phase I trials.


Based on the results of clinical trials, we conclude that RR inhibitors are viable treatment options, either as a monotherapy or as a combination in cancer chemotherapy. With the recent advances made in cancer biology, further development of RR inhibitors with improved efficacy and reduced toxicity is possible for treatment of variety of cancers.


Clinical trial; Efficacy; Progression-free survival; Response rate; Ribonucleotide reductase; Toxicity

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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