Background: Tafenoquine (TQ) is an 8-aminoquinoline (8AQ) that has been tested in several Phase II and Phase III clinical studies and is currently in late stage development as an anti-malarial prophylactic agent. NPC-1161B is a promising 8AQ in late preclinical development. It has recently been reported that the 8AQ drug primaquine requires metabolic activation by CYP 2D6 for efficacy in humans and in mice, highlighting the importance of pharmacogenomics in the target population when administering primaquine. A logical follow-up study was to determine whether CYP 2D activation is required for other compounds in the 8AQ structural class.
Methods: In the present study, the anti-malarial activities of NPC-1161B and TQ were assessed against luciferase expressing Plasmodium berghei in CYP 2D knock-out mice in comparison with normal C57BL/6 mice (WT) and with humanized/CYP 2D6 knock-in mice by monitoring luminescence with an in vivo imaging system. These experiments were designed to determine the direct effects of CYP 2D metabolic activation on the anti-malarial efficacy of NPC-1161B and TQ.
Results: NPC-1161B and TQ exhibited no anti-malarial activity in CYP 2D knock-out mice when dosed at their ED100 values (1 mg/kg and 3 mg/kg, respectively) established in WT mice. TQ anti-malarial activity was partially restored in humanized/CYP 2D6 knock-in mice when tested at two times its ED100.
Conclusions: The results reported here strongly suggest that metabolism of NPC-1161B and TQ by the CYP 2D enzyme class is essential for their anti-malarial activity. Furthermore, these results may provide a possible explanation for therapeutic failures for patients who do not respond to 8AQ treatment for relapsing malaria. Because CYP 2D6 is highly polymorphic, variable expression of this enzyme in humans represents a significant pharmacogenomic liability for 8AQs which require CYP 2D metabolic activation for efficacy, particularly for large-scale prophylaxis and eradication campaigns.