PNU-159548, a novel cytotoxic antitumor agent with a low cardiotoxic potential

Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 2001 Apr;47(4):355-60. doi: 10.1007/s002800000240.


Purpose: PNU-159548 (4-demethoxy-3'-deamino-3'aziridinyl-4'-methylsulphonyl-daunorubicin), a derivative of the anticancer idarubicin, has a broad spectrum of antitumoral activity in vitro and in vivo attributable to its DNA intercalating and alkylating properties. The present study was conducted to determine the cardiotoxic activity of PNU-159548 relative to doxorubicin in a chronic rat model sensitive to anthracycline-induced cardiomyopathy.

Methods: Young adult male rats were allocated to the following treatment groups: group 1, PNU-159548 vehicle control (colloidal dispersion); group 2, doxorubicin control (saline); groups 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7, PNU-159548 at 0.12, 0.25, 0.50, 0.75, and 1.0 mg/kg, respectively; and group 8, 1.0 mg/kg doxorubicin. Treatments were administered intravenously once weekly for 4 weeks (first sacrifice time) or for 7 weeks (rats killed at weeks 8, 12, 22, 27, or 35). Body weights, organ weights, serum chemistry, hematology, serum troponin-T, and cardiac histopathology were followed throughout the study.

Results: Doxorubicin caused irreversible cardiomyopathy evident at week 4 in some rats and progressing in severity in all rats by week 8. There were also marked myelotoxicity, increased liver and kidney weights, testicular atrophy, and about 20% mortality by week 27 in doxorubicin-treated rats. The deaths were attributed to cardiomyopathy and/or nephropathy. PNU-159548 caused a dose-dependent myelotoxicity, with the dose of 0.5 mg/kg per week being equimyelotoxic to 1.0 mg/kg per week doxorubicin. PNU-159548 also caused an increase in liver weight that was reversible and a non-reversible testicular atrophy but, unlike doxorubicin, had no effect on kidney weight. At equimyelotoxic doses, the cardiotoxicity caused by PNU-159548, expressed as the mean total score, was less than one-twentieth of that induced by doxorubicin, and much less than that predicted on the basis of its content of idarubicin, which is in turn markedly less cardiotoxic than doxorubicin.

Conclusions: The novel cytotoxic antitumor derivative, PNU-159548, is significantly less cardiotoxic than doxorubicin at equimyelosuppressive doses. The combination of intercalating and alkylating activities within the same molecule without the cardiotoxic side effects of anthracyclines makes PNU-159548 an excellent candidate for clinical development in oncology.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibiotics, Antineoplastic / toxicity*
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Bone Marrow Diseases / chemically induced
  • Daunorubicin / analogs & derivatives
  • Daunorubicin / toxicity*
  • Doxorubicin / toxicity
  • Female
  • Heart Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Male
  • Organ Size / drug effects
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • 4-demethoxy-3'-deamino-3'-aziridinyl-4'-methylsulfonyldaunorubicin
  • Antibiotics, Antineoplastic
  • Doxorubicin
  • Daunorubicin