Cellular pharmacology and in vivo activity of a new anticancer agent, ZD9331: a water-soluble, nonpolyglutamatable, quinazoline-based inhibitor of thymidylate synthase

A L Jackman, R Kimbell, G W Aherne, L Brunton, G Jansen, T C Stephens, M N Smith, J M Wardleworth, F T Boyle

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ZD9331 is a drug that was developed from a potent class of water-soluble, C7-methyl-substituted, quinazoline-based inhibitors of thymidylate synthase (TS) that are transported into cells via a saturable, carrier-mediated system (reduced folate carrier, or RFC) but are not substrates for folylpolyglutamate synthetase. ZD9331 is the gamma-tetrazole analogue of 2-desamino-2, 7-dimethyl-N10-propargyl-2'fluoro-5,8-dideaza folate (ZM214888), with a TS Ki of approximately 0.4 nM. ZD9331 exhibits potent growth inhibitory and cytotoxic activity; e.g., IC50 for the inhibition of human W1L2 lymphoblastoid cell line was 7 nM. The addition of thymidine to the culture medium increased the IC50 in W1L2 cells >10, 000-fold, demonstrating the high specificity of the drug for TS. ZD9331 is transported into cells predominantly via the RFC. Accordingly, it competes with methotrexate (MTX) and folinic acid for cellular uptake and has reduced activity against two cell lines with low expression of the RFC (L1210:1565 and CEM/MTX). In addition, a cell line with acquired resistance to ZD9331 displays reduced uptake of both ZD9331 and MTX. A mouse cell line (L1210:RD1694), with acquired resistance to ZD1694 due to reduced folylpolyglutamate synthetase activity, was not significantly cross-resistant to ZD9331. The flux through TS, as measured by 3H release from 5-[3H]deoxyuridine, was rapidly inhibited when cells were incubated with ZD9331. However, because ZD9331 cannot form polyglutamates, TS activity recovered rapidly once cells were placed in drug-free medium. The minimum curative dose of ZD9331 in the i.m. L5178Y TK-/- tumor model was approximately 3 mg/kg when given by 24-h continuous infusion, and it was 25-50 mg/kg when given by a single i.p. or i.v. injection. ZD9331 had antitumor activity against the L5178Y TK+/- tumor when administered by 7-day continuous infusion; growth delays of more than 5 days (and some cures) were seen at doses of 25-50 mg/kg/day. At higher doses, significant weight loss (gastrointestinal toxicity) and myelosuppression (neutropenia and thrombocytopenia) were observed, suggesting that these may be dose-limiting toxicities in the Phase I clinical studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)911-21
Number of pages11
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1997

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