Nuclear targeting and retention of anthracycline antitumor drugs in sensitive and resistant tumor cells

José Portugal, Beatriz Martín, Alejandro Vaquero, Neus Ferrer, Silvia Villamarín, Waldemar Priebe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Recent and new results which support a drug-DNA covalent bonding mechanism for cell toxicity of the clinical antitumor drugs, daunorubicin, doxorubicin, and epidoxorubicin, are summarized. The mechanism involves the iron complex of the drugs inducing oxidative stress to yield formaldehyde, which then mediates covalent attachment to G-bases of DNA. At NGC sites the combination of covalent and non-covalent drug interactions serve to virtually crosslink the DNA. Structural data for virtual crosslinks are compared as a function of drug structure. Elucidation of the mechanism led to the synthesis and evaluation of drug formaldehyde conjugates, Daunoform, Doxoform, and Epidoxoform, as improved chemotherapeutics. Drug uptake, nuclear targeting, drug release, and cytotoxicity of the clinical drugs by sensitive and resistant breast and prostate cancer cells are contrasted with those of the corresponding formaldehyde conjugates. Conjugates are taken up better, retained longer, and are more toxic to a wide variety of tumor cells. The kinetics of drug release from Doxoform and Epidoxoform treated MCF-7/Adr cells are biexponential and correlate with the biexponential kinetics of drug release from extracellular DNA. The results of the lead conjugate, Epidoxoform, in the National Cancer Institute 60 human tumor cell screen are presented and discussed in terms of some resistance mechanisms. Epidoxoform shows increased toxicity to all panels relative to doxorubicin and epidoxorubicin, and this enhanced toxicity is especially evident with the more resistant cell lines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-29
Number of pages15
JournalCurrent Medicinal Chemistry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2001


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