Folate targeting enables durable and specific antitumor responses from a therapeutically null tubulysin B analogue.

Endocyte, Inc., West Lafayette, Indiana 47906, USA.
Cancer Research (Impact Factor: 9.28). 01/2009; 68(23):9839-44. DOI: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-08-2341
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The membrane-bound high-affinity folate receptor (FR) is highly expressed on a wide range of primary and metastatic human cancers, such as those originating in ovary, lung, breast, endometrium, kidney, and brain. Because folate-linked conjugates bind to and become internalized within FR-expressing cells (similar to that of free folic acid), we explored the possibility of using the folate ligand to target a potent, semisynthetic analogue of the microtubule inhibitor tubulysin B to FR-enriched tumors. When tested in vitro, a novel folate conjugate, herein referred to as EC0305, was found to specifically inhibit the growth of a panel of FR-positive cell lines (IC50 range, 1-10 nmol/L) in a dose-dependent manner, whereas cells lacking FR expression were unaffected. The potency of EC0305 was also confirmed against a human KB xenograft-nu/nu mouse cancer model. Here, a brief three times per week, 2-week regimen yielded remarkable antitumor activity (100% tumor-free animals) without causing significant weight loss or major organ tissue degeneration. In contrast, antitumor activity was completely abolished in EC0305-treated animals that were co-dosed with an excess of a nontoxic folate-containing analogue, thereby confirming that the antitumor effect of this agent was mediated by FRs. The advantage provided by folate conjugation was further proved by the untargeted free drug, which was found to be completely inactive at both tolerable and highly toxic dose levels. Collectively, these results show that this potent antiproliferative tubulysin compound can be specifically delivered to FR-positive tumors to provide substantial therapeutic benefit using well-tolerable dosing regimens.

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