Cancer chemotherapy is limited by the modest therapeutic index of most antineoplastic drugs. Some glucuronide prodrugs may display selective anti-tumour activity against tumours that accumulate beta-glucuronidase. We examined the toxicity and anti-tumour activity of 9-aminocamptothecin glucuronide, a new glucuronide prodrug of 9-aminocamptothecin, to evaluate its potential clinical utility. 9-aminocamptothecin glucuronide was 25-60 times less toxic than 9-aminocamptothecin to five human cancer cell lines. Beta-glucuronidase activated 9-aminocamptothecin glucuronide to produce similar cell killing as 9-aminocamptothecin or topotecan. The in vivo toxicity of 9-aminocamptothecin glucuronide in BALB/c mice was dose-, route-, sex- and age-dependent. 9-aminocamptothecin glucuronide was significantly less toxic to female than to male mice but the difference decreased with age. 9-aminocamptothecin glucuronide and 9-aminocamptothecin produced similar inhibition (approximately 80%) of LS174T human colorectal carcinoma tumours. 9-aminocamptothecin glucuronide cured a high percentage of CL1-5 human lung cancer xenografts with efficacy that was similar to or greater than 9-aminocamptothecin, irinotecan and topotecan. The potent anti-tumour activity of 9-aminocamptothecin glucuronide suggests that this prodrug should be further evaluated for cancer treatment.
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