Anthracycline drug targeting: cytoplasmic versus nuclear--a fork in the road

Drug Resist Updat. 2001 Jun;4(3):169-77. doi: 10.1054/drup.2001.0201.


The anthracycline antibiotics doxorubicin (Adriamycin; DOX) and daunorubicin (DNR) continue to be essential components of first-line chemotherapy in the treatment of a variety of solid and hematopoietic tumors. The overall efficacies of DOX and DNR are, however, impeded by serious dose-limiting toxicities, including cardiotoxicity, and the selection of multiple mechanisms of cellular drug resistance. These limitations have necessitated the development of newer anthracyclines whose structural and functional modifications circumvent these impediments. In this review, we will present recent strategies in anthracycline design and assess their potential therapeutic merits. Current anthracycline design has diverged to target either cytoplasmic or nuclear sites. Nuclear targets have been broadened to include not only topoisomerase II (topo II) inhibition through ternary complex stabilization and catalytic inhibition, but also topoisomerase I (topo I) inhibition and transcriptional inhibition. In contrast, cytoplasmic targeting focuses on anthracycline binding to protein kinase C (PKC) regulatory domain with consequent modulation of activity.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibiotics, Antineoplastic / pharmacology*
  • Cell Nucleus / drug effects*
  • Cell Nucleus / enzymology
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Cytoplasm / drug effects*
  • Cytoplasm / enzymology
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism
  • Drug Delivery Systems / methods*
  • Humans


  • Antibiotics, Antineoplastic