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1.  Novel anticancer polymeric conjugates of activated nucleoside analogs 
Bioconjugate chemistry  2011;22(10):1983-1993.
Inherent or therapy-induced drug resistance is a major clinical setback in cancer treatment. The extensive usage of cytotoxic nucleobases and nucleoside analogs in chemotherapy also results in the development of specific mechanisms of drug resistance; such as nucleoside transport or activation deficiencies. These drugs are prodrugs; and being converted into the active mono-, di- and triphosphates inside cancer cells following administration, they affect nucleic acid synthesis, nucleotide metabolism, or sensitivity to apoptosis. Previously, we have actively promoted the idea that the nanodelivery of active nucleotide species, e.g. 5′-triphosphates of nucleoside analogs, can enhance drug efficacy and reduce nonspecific toxicity. In this study we report the development of a novel type of drug nanoformulations, polymeric conjugates of nucleoside analogs, which are capable of the efficient transport and sustained release of phosphorylated drugs. These drug conjugates have been synthesized, starting from cholesterol-modified mucoadhesive polyvinyl alcohol or biodegradable dextrin, by covalent attachment of nucleoside analogs through a tetraphosphate linker. Association of cholesterol moieties in aqueous media resulted in intramolecular polymer folding and the formation of small nanogel particles containing 0.5 mmol/g of a 5′-phosphorylated nucleoside analog, e.g. 5-fluoro-2′-deoxyuridine (floxuridine, FdU), an active metabolite of anticancer drug 5-fluorouracyl (5-FU). The polymeric conjugates demonstrated rapid enzymatic release of floxuridine 5′-phosphate and much slower drug release under hydrolytic conditions (pH 1.0–7.4). Among the panel of cancer cell lines, all studied polymeric FdU-conjugates demonstrated an up to 50 times increased cytotoxicity in human prostate cancer PC-3, breast cancer MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 cells, and more than 100 times higher efficacy against cytarabine-resistant human T-lymphoma (CEM/araC/8) and gemcitabine-resistant follicular lymphoma (RL7/G) cells as compared to free drugs. In the initial in vivo screening, both PC-3 and RL7/G subcutaneous tumor xenograft models showed enhanced sensitivity to sustained drug release from polymeric FdU-conjugate after peritumoral injections and significant tumor growth inhibition. All these data demonstrate a remarkable clinical potential of novel polymeric conjugates of phosphorylated nucleoside analogs, especially as new therapeutic agents against drug-resistant tumors.
PMCID: PMC3200571  PMID: 21863885
2.  Novel liver-specific cholic acid-cytarabine conjugates with potent antitumor activities: Synthesis and biological characterization 
Acta Pharmacologica Sinica  2011;32(5):664-672.
Cytarabine is an efficient anticancer agent for acute myelogenous leukemia, but with short plasma half-life and rapid deamination to its inactive metabolite. The aim of this study was to design and synthesize novel cholic acid-cytarabine conjugates to improve its pharmacokinetic parameters.
The in vitro stability of novel cholic acid-cytarabine conjugates was investigated in simulated gastric and intestinal fluid, mouse blood and liver homogenate using HPLC. The portacaval samples of the conjugates were examined in male Sprague-Dawley rats using LC/MS, and in vivo distribution was examined in male Kunming mice using LC/MS. Antitumor activities were tested in HL60 cells using MTT assay.
Cholic acid-cytarabine compounds with four different linkers were designed and synthesized. All the four cholic acid-cytarabine conjugates could release cytarabine when incubated with the simulated gastric and intestinal fluid, mouse blood and liver homogenate. The conjugates 6, 12, and 16 were present in the portacaval samples, whereas the conjugate 7 was not detected. The conjugates 6 and 16 showed high specificity in targeting the liver (liver target index 34.9 and 16.3, respectively) and good absorption in vivo, as compared with cytarabine. In cytarabine-sensitive HL60 cells, the conjugates 6, 12, and 16 retained potent antitumor activities.
Three novel cholic acid-cytarabine conjugates with good liver-targeting properties and absorption were obtained. Further optimization of the conjugates is needed in the future.
PMCID: PMC4002521  PMID: 21516131
cytarabine; cholic acid; liver; antitumor drug
3.  Antitumor Agents. 256. Conjugation of Paclitaxel with Other Antitumor Agents: Evaluation of Novel Conjugates as Cytotoxic Agents 
Fifteen different taxoid conjugates were prepared by linking various anticancer compounds, including camptothecin (CPT), epipodophyllotoxin (EP), colchicine (COL), and glycyrrhetinic acid (GA), at the 2’- or 7-position on paclitaxel (TXL, 1) through an ester, imine, amine, or amide bond. Newly synthesized conjugates were evaluated for cytotoxic activity against replication of several human tumor cell lines. Among them, TXL-CPT conjugates, 8–10, were more potent than TXL itself against the human prostate carcinoma cell line PC-3 (ED50 = 14.8, 3.1, 19.4 nM compared with 55.5 nM), and conjugate 10 was also eightfold more active than TXL against the LN-CAP prostate cancer cell line. These compounds also possessed anti-angiogenesis ability as well as lower inhibitory effects against a normal cell line (MRC-5). Thus, conjugates 8–10 are possible antitumor drug candidates, particularly for prostate cancer.
PMCID: PMC1955431  PMID: 17350834
Paclitaxel; Conjugation; Cytotoxity; Prostate cancer
4.  Anionic linear-globular dendrimer-cis-platinum (II) conjugates promote cytotoxicity in vitro against different cancer cell lines 
Due to their unique properties, Anticancer dendrimer-based drugs have been displaying promising results in both in vitro and in vivo in the treatment of cancerous cells, as compared to the traditional polymers. In this report, two conjugates (G1+Pt and G2+Pt) of cisplatin [cis-diaminedichloroplatinum; (CDDP)] with two generations (G1, G2) of a biocompatible anionic dendrimer were prepared in an aqueous media. Their potential cytotoxic effects, in two sensitive cancer cell lines HT1080 and CT26 together with one resistant cancer cell line SKOV3, using MTT (methyl thiazolyl tetrazolium) assay were examined. Hemolytic impacts and cell death mechanisms of the conjugates on human blood and HT1080 cell line were also investigated. The conjugate G2+Pt showed greater toxicity up to 9× and 2× in the sensitive and resistant cell lines (IC50 comparison, inhibitory concentration) respectively when compared to the parent drug. The G1+Pt conjugate showed greater toxicity only in the sensitive HT1080 (2×) and CT26 (3.7×) cell lines. Moreover, the G1+Pt conjugate was less toxic approximately one third of the cisplatin in SKOV3 after 48 hrs of incubation. In summary, the G2+Pt conjugate had greater toxicity than the G1+Pt conjugate and cisplatin, based on the in vitro results. Approximately the same hemolysis behavior was observed for both conjugates and cisplatin. Both apoptosis and necrosis mechanisms (about 2× more than cisplatin) were attributed to conjugates and cisplatin in a direct correlation between the concentration and the degree of cell death. In conclusion, these conjugates with such high potency and minimum hemolysis would be suitable candidates for use against these cancerous cell lines as efficient and novel antitumor agents.
PMCID: PMC2819903  PMID: 20161988
cis-platinum (II); dendrimer; in vitro cytotoxicity; hemolysis; apoptosis-necrosis
5.  Comparative Tumor Imaging and PDT Efficacy of HPPH Conjugated in the Mono- and Di-Forms to Various Polymethine Cyanine Dyes: Part - 2 
Theranostics  2013;3(9):703-718.
Previous reports from our laboratory have shown that a bifunctional agent obtained by conjugating a photosensitizer (HPPH) to a cyanine dye (CD) can be used for fluorescence image-guided treatment of tumor by photodynamic therapy (PDT). However, the resulting HPPH-CD conjugate showed a significant difference between the tumor-imaging and therapeutic doses. It was demonstrated that the singlet oxygen (1O2*, a key cytotoxic agent in PDT) produced by the conjugate upon excitation of the HPPH moiety was partially quenched by the CD-moiety; this resulted in a reduced PDT response when compared to HPPH-PDT under similar treatment parameters. To improve the therapeutic potential of the conjugate, we synthesized a series of dual functional agents in which one or two HPPH moieties were separately conjugated to three different dyes (Cypate, modified IR820 or modified IR783). The newly synthesized conjugates were compared with our lead compound HPPH-CD in terms of photophysical properties, in vitro and in vivo PDT efficacy, tumor uptake and imaging potential. Among the analogs investigated, the conjugate, in which two HPPH moieties were linked to the modified IR820 produced enhanced tumor uptake and tumor contrast in both Colon 26 (a murine Colon carcinoma) and U87 (a human glioblastoma) cell lines. The long-term PDT efficacy (cure) of this conjugate in BALB/c mice, bearing Colon 26 tumors was also enhanced; however, its efficacy in Nude mice bearing U87 tumors was slightly reduced. It was also found that in all the conjugates the singlet oxygen generation and, consequently, PDT efficacy were compromised by a competing pathway, whereby an electronic excitation of HPPH, the energy donor, is deactivated through an electronic excitation energy transfer (Forster Resonance Energy Transfer, FRET) to the CD fluorophore, the energy acceptor, resulting in overall reduction of the singlet oxygen production. Conjugates with increased FRET showed reduced singlet oxygen production and PDT efficacy. Among the conjugates investigated, the bifunctional agent in which two HPPH moieties were linked to the benzoindole-based cyanine dye 11 showed superiority over the lead candidate 9 (mono HPPH-cyanine dye).
PMCID: PMC3767117  PMID: 24019855
Photodynamic therapy, Fluorophores, Reactive Oxygen species; Imaging. Forster Resonance Energy Transfer.
6.  Structure-Dependent Inhibition of Bladder and Pancreatic Cancer Cell Growth by 2-Substituted Glycyrrhetinic and Ursolic Acid Derivatives 
Derivatives of oleanolic acid, ursolic acid and glycyrrhetinic acid substituted with electron withdrawing groups at the 2-position in the A-ring which also contains a 1-en-3-one structure are potent inhibitors of cancer cell growth. In this study, we have compared the effects of several 2-substituted analogs of triterpenoid acid methyl esters derived from ursolic and glycyrrhetinic acid on proliferation of KU7 and 253JB-V bladder and Panc-1 and Panc-28 pancreatic cancer cells. The results show that the 2-cyano and 2-trifluoromethyl derivatives were the most active compounds. The glycyrrhetinic acid derivatives with the rearranged C-ring containing the 9(11)-en-12-one structure were generally more active than the corresponding 12-en-11-one isomers. However, differences in growth inhibitory IC50 values were highly variable and dependent on the 2- substitutent (CN vs. CF3) and cancer cell context.
PMCID: PMC2408873  PMID: 18359628
glycyrrhetinate analogs; growth inhibition; bladder cancer; pancreatic cancer
7.  Dehydrozingerone, Chalcone, and Isoeugenol Analogs as In Vitro Anticancer Agents# 
Journal of natural products  2006;69(10):1445-1449.
Twenty-eight compounds related to dehydrozingerone (1), isoeugenol (3), and 2-hydroxychalcone (4) were synthesized and evaluated in vitro against human tumor cell replication. Except for isoeugenol analogs 27−35, most compounds exhibited moderate or strong cytotoxic activity against KB, KB-VCR (a multi-drug resistant derivative), and A549 cell lines. In particular, chalcone 15 showed significant cytotoxic activity against the A549 cell line with an IC50 value of 0.6 μg/mL. Furthermore, dehydrozingerone analog 11 and chalcones 16 and 17 showed significant and similar cytotoxic activity against both KB (IC50 values of 2.0, 1.0, and 2.0 μg/mL, respectively) and KB-VCR (IC50 values of 1.9, 1.0, and 2.0 μg/mL, respectively) cells, suggesting that they are not substrates for the p-glycoprotein drug efflux pump.
PMCID: PMC2532514  PMID: 17067159
8.  Dexamethasone-poly(dimethylamino)ethyl methacrylate (pDMAEMA) conjugates reduce inflammatory biomarkers in human intestinal epithelial monolayers 
The mucoadhesive polymer, poly(dimethylamino)ethyl methacrylate (pDMAEMA) was synthesised by living radical polymerisation and subsequently conjugated by esterification to the anti-inflammatory corticosteroid, dexamethasone, to separately yield two concentrations of conjugates with ratios of 10:1 and 20:1 active:polymer. The hypothesis was to test whether the active agent maintained in vitro bioactivity when exposed to the apical side of human intestinal epithelial monolayers, Caco-2 and mucous-covered HT29-MTX-E12 (E12). HPLC analysis showed that 80% of the dexamethasone in both conjugates was attached to pDMAEMA. Similar to pDMAEMA, fluorescently-labelled dexamethasone-pDMAEMA conjugates were bioadhesive to Caco-2 and mucoadhesive to E12. Apical addition of conjugates suppressed mRNA expression of the inflammatory markers, NURR1 and ICAM-1 in E12 following stimulation by PGE2 and TNF-α, respectively. Conjugates also suppressed TNF-α stimulated cytokine secretion to the basolateral side of Caco-2 monolayers. pDMAEMA was inactive in these assays. Measurement of dexamethasone permeability from conjugates across monolayers suggested that conjugation reduced permeability compared to free dexamethasone. LDH assay indicated that conjugates were not cytotoxic to monolayers at high concentrations. Anti-inflammatory agents can therefore be successfully conjugated to polymers and they retain adhesion and bioactivity to enable formulation for topical administration.
PMCID: PMC4047761  PMID: 19110018
9.  Lysosomal delivery of a lipophilic gemcitabine prodrug using novel acid-sensitive micelles improved its antitumor activity 
Bioconjugate chemistry  2012;23(5):966-980.
Stimulus-sensitive micelles are attractive anticancer drug delivery systems. Herein we reported a novel strategy to engineer acid-sensitive micelles using a amphiphilic material synthesized by directly conjugating the hydrophilic polyethylene glycol (PEG) with a hydrophobic stearic acid derivative (C18) using an acid-sensitive hydrazone bond (PHC). An acid-insensitive PEG-amide-C18 (PAC) compound was also synthesized as a control. 4-(N)-stearoyl gemcitabine (GemC18), a prodrug of the nucleoside analog gemcitabine, was loaded into the micelles, and they were found to be significantly more cytotoxic to tumor cells than GemC18 solution, likely due to the lysosomal delivery of GemC18 by micelles. Moreover, GemC18 in the acid-sensitive PHC micelles was more cytotoxic than in the acid-insensitive PAC micelles, which may be attributed to the acid-sensitive release of GemC18 from the PHC micelles in lysosomes. In B16-F10 melanoma-bearing mice, GemC18-loaded PHC or PAC micelles showed a stronger antitumor activity than GemC18 or gemcitabine solution, likely because of the prolonged circulation time and increased tumor accumulation of the GemC18 by the micelles. Importantly, the in vivo antitumor activity of GemC18-loaded PHC micelles was significantly stronger than that of the PAC micelles, demonstrating the potential of the novel acid-sensitive micelles as an anticancer drug delivery system.
PMCID: PMC3419313  PMID: 22471294
10.  Synthesis, characterization, and in vivo efficacy evaluation of PGG–docetaxel conjugate for potential cancer chemotherapy 
This work is intended to develop and evaluate a biopolymeric poly(L-γ-glutamylglutamine) (PGG)–docetaxel (DTX) conjugate that can spontaneously self-assemble in aqueous solutions to become nanoparticles.
DTX was covalently attached to hydrophilic PGG by direct esterification, and the conjugate was characterized by proton nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, molecular weight gel permeation chromatography, solubility, size distribution and morphology, and hemolysis. Conjugated DTX was found to have 2000 times improved water solubility compared with free DTX. Dynamic light scattering, transmission electron microscopy, and atomic force microscopy revealed the particle size, distribution and morphology of the PGG–DTX conjugate. In addition, the conjugate was further tested for in vitro cytotoxicity and in vivo antitumor efficacy on the human non-small cell lung cancer cell line NCI-H460.
Conjugated DTX was found to have 2000 times improved water solubility compared with free DTX. The conjugate formed nanoparticles with an average diameter of 30 nm in spherical shape and unimodal particle size distribution. The conjugate exhibited about 2% hemolysis at 10 mg/mL, compared with 56% for Tween 80® at 0.4 mg/mL, and 33% for Cremophor EL® at 10 mg/mL. In addition, the conjugate was further tested for in vitro cytotoxicity and in vivo antitumor efficacy on the human non-small cell lung cancer cell line NCI-H460. As expected, conjugated DTX exhibited lower cytotoxicity compared to that of free DTX, in concentration-dependent manner. However, PGG–DTX showed better antitumor activity in NCI-H460 lung cancer-bearing mice with minimal weight loss compared to that of free DTX.
The PGG–DTX conjugate may be considered as an attractive and promising polymeric DTX conjugate for non-small cell lung cancer treatment.
PMCID: PMC3278226  PMID: 22334784
polymer drug delivery; nanotechnology; nanotherapeutics; drug delivery; nanomedicine; pharmaceutics
11.  Interaction of Natural Dietary and Herbal Anionic Compounds and Flavonoids with Human Organic Anion Transporters 1 (SLC22A6), 3 (SLC22A8), and 4 (SLC22A11) 
Active components of complementary/alternative medicines and natural supplements are often anionic compounds and flavonoids. As such, organic anion transporters (OATs) may play a key role in their pharmacokinetic and pharmacological profiles, and represent sites for adverse drug-drug interactions. Therefore, we assessed the inhibitory effects of nine natural products, including flavonoids (catechin and epicatechin), chlorogenic acids (1,3- and 1,5-dicaffeoylquinic acid), phenolic acids (ginkgolic acids (13 : 0), (15 : 1), and (17 : 1)), and the organic acids ursolic acid and 18β-glycyrrhetinic acid, on the transport activity of the human OATs, hOAT1 (SLC22A6), hOAT3 (SLC22A8), and hOAT4 (SLC22A11). Four compounds, 1,3- and 1,5-dicaffeoylquinic acid, ginkgolic acid (17 : 1), and 18β-glycyrrhetinic acid, significantly inhibited hOAT1-mediated transport (50 μM inhibitor versus 1 μM substrate). Five compounds, 1,3- and 1,5-dicaffeoylquinic acid, ginkgolic acids (15 : 1) and (17 : 1), and epicatechin, significantly inhibited hOAT3 transport under similar conditions. Only catechin inhibited hOAT4. Dose-dependency studies were conducted for 1,3-dicaffeoylquinic acid and 18β-glycyrrhetinic acid on hOAT1, and IC50 values were estimated as 1.2 ± 0.4 μM and 2.7 ± 0.2 μM, respectively. These data suggest that 1,3-dicaffeoylquinic acid and 18β-glycyrrhetinic acid may cause significant hOAT1-mediated DDIs in vivo; potential should be considered for safety issues during use and in future drug development.
PMCID: PMC3618943  PMID: 23573138
12.  Novel epithelial cell adhesion molecule antibody conjugated polyethyleneimine-capped gold nanoparticles for enhanced and targeted small interfering RNA delivery to retinoblastoma cells 
Molecular Vision  2013;19:1029-1038.
Several nanoconjugates have been designed to deliver nucleic acids such as small interfering RNA (siRNA) and DNA to cells to study silencing and expression efficacies. In the present study, we prepared novel epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM) monoclonal antibody conjugated polyethyleneimine (PEI) capped gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) loaded with EpCAM-specific siRNA molecules to knock-down the EpCAM gene in retinoblastoma (RB) cells. We chose EpCAM as a target moiety to deliver siRNA because this molecule is highly expressed in various epithelial cancers and is an ideal target as it is highly expressed in the apical surface of tumor cells while showing basolateral expression in normal cells.
The EpCAM antibody was conjugated to AuNP-PEI loaded with siRNA molecules to specifically deliver siRNA to EpCAM-expressing RB cells. Conjugation efficiencies were confirmed with ultraviolet-visible spectrophotometry, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, and agarose and SDS–polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. The size and zeta potential were measured using a Zeta sizer analyzer. Nanoparticle internalization and uptake were studied using fluorescent microscopy and flow cytometry. Gene silencing efficacy was monitored with western blot analysis and real-time quantitative PCR.
Optimal size and neutral zeta potential properties of the AuNP-PEI- EpCAM antibody (EpAb) antibody were achieved for the transfection studies. The AuNP-PEI nanoparticles did not show any cytotoxicity to the cells, which means these nanomaterials are suitable for intracellular delivery of siRNA for therapeutic interventions. With EpCAM antibody conjugation, PEI-capped AuNPs loaded with EpCAM siRNA were significantly internalized in the Y79 cells as observed with fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry and induced a highly significant reduction in the cell viability of the Y79 cells. Through increased binding of EpCAM antibody–conjugated AuNP-PEI nanoparticles, significant downregulation of EpCAM gene was observed in the Y79 cells when compared to the cells treated with the antibody-unconjugated AuNP-PEI nanoparticles.
Thus, a novel antibody conjugated nanocarrier designed to deliver siRNA holds promise as an effective gene therapy strategy for retinoblastoma in the near future. In addition to serving as an siRNA delivery tool for therapy, gold nanoparticles can also serve as imaging modality in diagnosis.
PMCID: PMC3654846  PMID: 23687439
13.  Unifying Mechanisms of Action of the Anticancer Activities of Triterpenoids and Synthetic Analogs 
Triterpenoids such as betulinic acid (BA) and synthetic analogs of oleanolic acid [2-cyano-3,12-dioxooleana-1,9-dien-28-oic acid (CDDO)] and glycyrrhetinic acid [2-cyano-3,11-dioxo-18β-oleana-1,12-dien-30-oc acid (CDODA)] are potent anticancer agents that exhibit antiproliferative, antiangiogenic, anti-inflammatory and pro-apoptotic activities. Although their effects on multiple pathways have been reported, unifying mechanisms of action have not been reported. Studies in this laboratory have now demonstrated that several triterpenoids including BA and some derivatives, celastrol, methyl ursolatee, β-boswellic acid derivatives, and the synthetic analogs CDDO, CDODA and their esters decreased expression of specificity protein (Sp) transcription factors and several pro-oncogenic Sp-regulated genes in multiple cancer cell lines. The mechanisms of this response are both compound- and cell context-dependent and include activation of both proteasome-dependent and -independent pathways. Triterpenoid-mediated induction of reactive oxygen species (ROS) has now been characterized as an important proteasome-independent pathway for downregulation of Sp transcription factors. ROS decreases expression of microRNA-27a (miR-27a) and miR-20a/miR-17-5p and this results in the induction of the transcriptional “Sp-repressors” ZBTB10 and ZBTB4, respectively, which in turn downregulate Sp and Sp-regulated genes. Triterpenoids also activate or deactive nuclear receptors and G-protein coupled receptors, and these pathways contribute to their antitumorigenic activity and may also play a role in targeting Sp1, Sp3 and Sp4 which are highly overexpressed in multiple cancers and appear to be important for maintaining the cancer phenotype.
PMCID: PMC3532564  PMID: 22583404
Sp transcription factors; downregulation; reactive oxygen species
14.  Folic Acid Conjugated δ-Valerolactone-Poly(ethylene glycol) Based Triblock Copolymer as a Promising Carrier for Targeted Doxorubicin Delivery 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e70697.
The aim of this study is to test the hypothesis that the newly synthesized poly(δ-valerolactone)/poly(ethylene glycol)/poly(δ-valerolactone) (VEV) copolymer grafted with folic acid would impart targetability and further enhance the anti-tumor efficacy of doxorubicin (DOX). Here, folic acid conjugated VEV (VEV-FOL) was synthesized by a modified esterification method and characterized using IR and NMR. DOX loaded VEV-FOL micelles were synthesized using a novel solvent evaporation method and were obtained with a mean diameter of 97 nm with high encapsulation efficiency and sustained in vitro release profile. Comparative studies of polymer micelles with and without folate for cellular uptake and cytotoxicity were done on folate receptor-positive breast cancer cell line, MDAMB231. The intracellular uptake tests showed significant increase in folate micellar uptake when compared to non-folate-mediated micelles. MTT assay followed by apoptosis assays clearly indicated that folate decorated micelles showed significantly better cytotoxicity (IC50 = 0.014 µM) and efficiency to induce apoptosis than other treated groups. Moreover, a significant G2/M arrest was induced by DOX loaded VEV-FOL micelles at a concentration where free drug failed to show any activity. Thus, our results show that the folic acid-labeled VEV copolymer is a promising biomaterial with controlled and sustainable tumor targeting ability for anticancer drugs which can open new frontiers in the area of targeted chemotherapy.
PMCID: PMC3749165  PMID: 23990912
15.  Synthesis and Proteasome Inhibition of Glycyrrhetinic Acid Derivatives 
Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry  2008;16(14):6696-6701.
This study discovered that glycyrrhetinic acid inhibited the human 20S proteasome at 22.3 µM. Esterification of the C-3 hydroxyl group on glycyrrhetinic acid with various carboxylic acid reagents yielded a series of analogs with marked improved potency. Among the derivatives, glycyrrhetinic acid 3-O-isophthalate (17) was the most potent compound with IC50 of 0.22 µM, which was approximately 100-fold more potent than glycyrrhetinic acid.
PMCID: PMC2579312  PMID: 18562200
Glycyrrhetinic acid; proteasome inhibitor; triterpene
16.  Anticancer Conjugates and Cocktails Based on Methotrexate and Nucleoside Synergism 
Conjugates of methotrexate (MTX) and the nucleoside analogs 3-azidodeoxythymidine (AZT), iododeoxyuridine (IUdR) and dideoxycytidine (ddC) linked using poly(ethyleneglycol) are presented. In vitro cytotoxicity assays of the conjugates against drug resistant ovarian cell line A2780/AD are preformed and comparisons made to such assays performed for unconjugated (cocktail) systems. All systems tested were inactive, or had low activity, at 24 h. After 72 hr incubation however, the cocktails of MTX and AZT, IUdR or ddC showed high cytotoxicity in the low nanomolar range. The conjugates were only very moderately active with IC50 values in the [0.1 to 1.0 mM] range. Conjugation of the antifolate to the nucleoside analogs has it seems reduced the activity significantly when compared to a cocktail of the components, indicating a conjugate approach is unlikely to translate into success in vivo. The positive note comes from the observation that by combining two of the new conjugates, namely those based on MTX with IUdR or AZT, an IC50 at 24 hours of ~ [180 μM] was produced.
PMCID: PMC2872594  PMID: 20689607
nucleosides; folic acid; cocktail therapy; conjugates; PEG
17.  Targeting CD19 in B-cell lymphoma: emerging role of SAR3419 
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma symbolizes a heterogeneous group of diseases resulting from malignant transformation of lymphocytes with differing patterns of behavior and responses to treatment. The potential curability of non-Hodgkin lymphoma differs among the various histologic subtypes and is associated in part with the stage at presentation. CD19 antigen is a type I transmembrane glycoprotein belonging to the immunoglobulin Ig superfamily. CD19 is specifically expressed in normal and neoplastic B-cells. Recent study showed that in a mouse model, CD19 and c-Myc synergize functionally to accelerate B-cell lymphomagenesis, which is associated with increased disease severity. Specificity is the most important challenge in cancer therapeutics. Antibody–drug conjugates have the prospect of enhancing the therapeutic efficacy over unconjugated monoclonal antibodies through the selective delivery of cytotoxic agents to cancer cells. The ubiquitous expression of CD19 in these tumors, especially at an earlier stage and the property of efficient internalization, makes CD19 an attractive and affective target for antibody–drug conjugate therapy as compared to CD20. SAR3419 (huB4-DM4) is a novel antibody–drug conjugate that is composed of a humanized monoclonal IgG1 anti-CD19 antibody (huB4) attached to the potent cytotoxic drug, a maytansine derivative (DM4), through a cleavable disulfide cross-linking agent N-Succinimidyl-4-2-pyridyldithio butanoic acid (SPDB). The preclinical efficacy of maytansine derivative–anti-CD19 conjugate was demonstrated in our laboratory, and SAR3419 was found to be more effective than CHOP in a xenograft model. Phase I trials have also been conducted on the basis of preclinical studies that demonstrated promising antitumor activity with acceptable safety results in human B-cell lymphoma models. Additional trials are ongoing and will provide additional insight into the full potential of this novel drug.
PMCID: PMC3767487  PMID: 24023523
lymphoma; SAR3419; antibody-drug conjugates (ADC); maytansinoids; microtubule inhibitors
18.  Increased paclitaxel cytotoxicity against cancer cell lines using a novel functionalized carbon nanotube 
Potential applications of carbon nanotubes have attracted many researchers in the field of drug delivery systems. In this study, multiwalled carbon nanotubes (MWNTs) were first functionalized using hyperbranched poly citric acid (PCA) to improve their hydrophilicity and functionality. Then, paclitaxel (PTX), a potent anticancer agent, was conjugated to the carboxyl functional groups of poly citric acid via a cleavable ester bond to obtain a MWNT-g-PCA-PTX conjugate. Drug content of the conjugate was about 38% (w/w). The particle size of MWNT-g-PCA and MWNT-g-PCA-PTX was approximately 125 and 200 nm, respectively. Atomic force microscopy and transmission electron microscopy images showed a curved shape for MWNT-g-PCA and MWNT-g-PCA-PTX, which was in contrast with the straight or linear conformation expected from carbon nanotubes. It seems that the high hydrophilicity of poly citric acid and high hydrophobicity of MWNTs led to conformational changes from a linear state to a curved state. Paclitaxel can be released from the MWNT-g-PCA-PTX conjugates faster at pH 6.8 and 5.0 than at pH 7.4, which was suitable for the release of the drug in tumor tissues and tumor cells. In vitro cytotoxicity studies were evaluated in the A549 and SKOV3 cell lines. MWNT-g-PCA had an insignificant cytotoxic effect on both cell lines. MWNT-g-PCA-PTX had more of a cytotoxic effect than the free drug over a shorter incubation time (eg, 24 hours versus 48 hours), which suggests improved cell penetration of MWNT-g-PCA-PTX. Therefore, paclitaxel conjugated to MWNT-g-PCA is promising for cancer therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC3084317  PMID: 21556345
multiwalled carbon nanotubes; functionalization; anticancer; drug delivery; nanoparticles
19.  Cellular Uptake and Cytotoxicity of Drug-Peptide Conjugates Regulated by Conjugation Site 
Bioconjugate chemistry  2013;24(4):604-613.
Conjugation of anticancer drugs to hydrophilic peptides such as Tat is a widely adopted strategy to improve the drug’s solubility, cellular uptake and potency against cancerous cells. Here we report that attachment of an anticancer drug doxorubicin to the N- or C-terminal of the Tat peptide can have a significant impact on their cellular uptake, cytotoxicity against both drug-sensitive and drug-resistant cancer cells. We observed higher cellular uptake by both cell lines for C-terminal conjugate relative to the N-terminal analogue. Our results reveal that the C-terminal conjugate partially overcame the multi-drug resistance of cervical cancer cells, while the N-terminal conjugate showed no significant improvement in cytotoxicity when compared with free doxorubicin. We also found that both N- and C- conjugates offers a mechanism to circumvent drug efflux associated with multidrug resistance.
PMCID: PMC3651882  PMID: 23514455
20.  Safe and targeted anticancer efficacy of a novel class of antioxidant-conjugated difluoro-diarylidenylpiperidones: Differential cytotoxicity in healthy and cancer cells 
Free radical biology & medicine  2010;48(9):1228-1235.
The development of smart anti-cancer drugs that can selectively kill cancer cells while sparing the surrounding healthy tissues/cells unharmed is of paramount importance for safe and effective cancer therapy. We report a novel class of bifunctional compounds based on diarylidenylpiperidone (DAP) conjugated with an N-hydroxypyrroline (NOH, a nitroxide precursor) group. We hypothesized that the DAP would have cytotoxic (anti-cancer) activity, while the NOH moiety would function as a tissue-specific modulator (anti-oxidant) of cytotoxicity. The study used four DAPs, namely H-4073 and H-4318 without NOH and HO-3867 and HO-4200 with NOH substitution. The goal of the study was to evaluate the ‘proof-of-concept’ anticancer-versus-antioxidant efficacy of the DAPs using a number of cancerous (breast, colon, head and neck, liver, lung, ovarian, and prostate cancer) and noncancerous (smooth muscle, aortic endothelial, and ovarian surface epithelial cells) human cell lines. Cytotoxicity was determined using an MTT-based cell viability assay. All four compounds induced significant loss of cell viability in cancer cells, while HO-3867 and HO-4200 showed significantly less cytotoxicity in noncancerous cells. EPR measurements showed a metabolic conversion of the N-hydroxylamine function to nitroxide with significantly higher levels of the metabolite and superoxide radical-scavenging (antioxidant) activity in noncancerous cells when compared to cancer cells. Western-blot analysis showed that the DAP-induced growth arrest and apoptosis in cancer cells were mediated by inhibition of STAT3 phosphorylation at Tyr705 and Ser727 residues and induction of apoptotic markers of cleaved caspase-3 and PARP. The results suggest that the antioxidant-conjugated DAPs will be useful as a safe and effective anticancer agent for cancer therapy.
PMCID: PMC2847669  PMID: 20156552
human cancer cell line; ovarian cancer; diarylidenylpiperidone; STAT3; curcumin; nitroxide
21.  Glycyrrhetinic Acid-Poly(ethylene glycol)-glycyrrhetinic Acid Tri-Block Conjugates Based Self-Assembled Micelles for Hepatic Targeted Delivery of Poorly Water Soluble Drug 
The Scientific World Journal  2013;2013:913654.
The triblock 18β-glycyrrhetinic acid-poly(ethylene glycol)-18β-glycyrrhetinic acid conjugates (GA-PEG-GA) based self-assembled micelles were synthesized and characterized by FTIR, NMR, transmission electron microscopy, and particle size analysis. The GA-PEG-GA conjugates having the critical micelle concentration of 6 × 10−5 M were used to form nanosized micelles, with mean diameters of 159.21 ± 2.2 nm, and then paclitaxel (PTX) was incorporated into GA-PEG-GA micelles by self-assembly method. The physicochemical properties of the PTX loaded GA-PEG-GA micelles were evaluated including in vitro cellular uptake, cytotoxicity, drug release profile, and in vivo tissue distribution. The results demonstrate that the GA-PEG-GA micelles had low cytotoxicity and good ability of selectively delivering drug to hepatic cells in vitro and in vivo by the targeting moiety glycyrrhetinic acid. In conclusion, the GA-PEG-GA conjugates have potential medical applications for targeted delivery of poor soluble drug delivery.
PMCID: PMC3858885  PMID: 24376388
22.  Recent Trends in Targeted Anticancer Prodrug and Conjugate Design 
Current medicinal chemistry  2008;15(18):1802-1826.
Anticancer drugs are often nonselective antiproliferative agents (cytotoxins) that preferentially kill dividing cells by attacking their DNA at some level. The lack of selectivity results in significant toxicity to noncancerous proliferating cells. These toxicities along with drug resistance exhibited by the solid tumors are major therapy limiting factors that results into poor prognosis for patients. Prodrug and conjugate design involves the synthesis of inactive drug derivatives that are converted to an active form inside the body and preferably at the site of action. Classical prodrug and conjugate design has focused on the development of prodrugs that can overcome physicochemical (e.g., solubility, chemical instability) or biopharmaceutical problems (e.g., bioavailability, toxicity) associated with common anticancer drugs. The recent targeted prodrug and conjugate design, on the other hand, hinges on the selective delivery of anticancer agents to tumor tissues thereby avoiding their cytotoxic effects on noncancerous cells. Targeting strategies have attempted to take advantage of low extracellular pH, elevated enzymes in tumor tissues, the hypoxic environment inside the tumor core, and tumor-specific antigens expressed on tumor cell surfaces. The present review highlights recent trends in prodrug and conjugate rationale and design for cancer treatment. The various approaches that are currently being explored are critically analyzed and a comparative account of the advantages and disadvantages associated with each approach is presented.
PMCID: PMC2802226  PMID: 18691040
Prodrugs; conjugates; targeted design; nanotechnology; anticancer
23.  Plant volatile eliciting FACs in lepidopteran caterpillars, fruit flies, and crickets: a convergent evolution or phylogenetic inheritance? 
Fatty acid amino acid conjugates (FACs), first identified in lepidopteran caterpillar spit as elicitors of plant volatile emission, also have been reported as major components in gut tracts of Drosophila melanogaster and cricket Teleogryllus taiwanemma. The profile of FAC analogs in these two insects was similar to that of tobacco hornworm Manduca sexta, showing glutamic acid conjugates predominantly over glutamine conjugates. The physiological function of FACs is presumably to enhance nitrogen assimilation in Spodoptera litura larvae, but in other insects it is totally unknown. Whether these insects share a common synthetic mechanism of FACs is also unclear. In this study, the biosynthesis of FACs was examined in vitro in five lepidopteran species (M. sexta, Cephonodes hylas, silkworm, S. litura, and Mythimna separata), fruit fly larvae and T. taiwanemma. The fresh midgut tissues of all of the tested insects showed the ability to synthesize glutamine conjugates in vitro when incubated with glutamine and sodium linolenate. Such direct conjugation was also observed for glutamic acid conjugates in all the insects but the product amount was very small and did not reflect the in vivo FAC patterns in each species. In fruit fly larvae, the predominance of glutamic acid conjugates could be explained by a shortage of substrate glutamine in midgut tissues, and in M. sexta, a rapid hydrolysis of glutamine conjugates has been reported. In crickets, we found an additional unique biosynthetic pathway for glutamic acid conjugates. T. taiwanemma converted glutamine conjugates to glutamic acid conjugates by deaminating the side chain of the glutamine moiety. Considering these findings together with previous results, a possibility that FACs in these insects are results of convergent evolution cannot be ruled out, but it is more likely that the ancestral insects had the glutamine conjugates and crickets and other insects developed glutamic acid conjugates in a different way.
PMCID: PMC3978339  PMID: 24744735
Lepidoptera; Drosophila melanogaster; Teleogryllus; Amino acids; Deamination; FACs
24.  The anticancer activity of lytic peptides is inhibited by heparan sulfate on the surface of the tumor cells 
BMC Cancer  2009;9:183.
Cationic antimicrobial peptides (CAPs) with antitumor activity constitute a promising group of novel anticancer agents. These peptides induce lysis of cancer cells through interactions with the plasma membrane. It is not known which cancer cell membrane components influence their susceptibility to CAPs. We have previously shown that CAPs interact with the two glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), heparan sulfate (HS) and chondroitin sulfate (CS), which are present on the surface of most cells. The purpose of this study was to investigate the role of the two GAGs in the cytotoxic activity of CAPs.
Various cell lines, expressing different levels of cell surface GAGs, were exposed to bovine lactoferricin (LfcinB) and the designer peptide, KW5. The cytotoxic effect of the peptides was investigated by use of the colorimetric MTT viability assay. The cytotoxic effect on wild type CHO cells, expressing normal amounts of GAGs on the cell surface, and the mutant pgsA-745, that has no expression of GAGs on the cell surface, was also investigated.
We show that cells not expressing HS were more susceptible to CAPs than cells expressing HS at the cell surface. Further, exogenously added heparin inhibited the cytotoxic effect of the peptides. Chondroitin sulfate had no effect on the cytotoxic activity of KW5 and only minor effects on LfcinB cytotoxicity.
Our results show for the first time that negatively charged molecules at the surface of cancer cells inhibit the cytotoxic activity of CAPs. Our results indicate that HS at the surface of cancer cells sequesters CAPs away from the phospholipid bilayer and thereby impede their ability to induce cytolysis.
PMCID: PMC2703650  PMID: 19527490
25.  Cancer preventive agents 10. Prenylated dehydrozingerone analogs as potent chemopreventive agents 
Dehydrozingerone analogs and related compounds were screened as potential antitumor promoters by using the in vitro short-term 12-O-tetradecanphorbol-13-acetate (TPA)-induced Epstein-Barr virus early antigen (EBV-EA) activation assay. Among 40 synthesized compounds, the prenylated analogs 16 and 34–36 showed the most significant and promising activity (100% inhibition of activation at 1×10 3 mol ratio/TPA, and 82–80%, 37–35%, 13–11% inhibition at 5×102, 1×102, 1×10 mol ratio/TPA, respectively) in this screening. Their activity profiles were comparable to that of the reference standard curcumin. While a prenyl moiety conferred potent chemopreventive activity, an extended prenyl unit such as a farnesyl moiety did not improve activity. Because in vitro inhibitory effects in this assay generally correlate well with in vivo inhibitory effects on tumor promotion, our results strongly suggested that prenylated 16 and 34–36 are likely to be promising antitumor promoters.
PMCID: PMC2856110  PMID: 20390770
dehydrozingerone; antitumor-promoting effect; Epstein-Barr virus; two-stage carcinogenesis

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