A prolonged cytotoxic effect of 5-azacytidine (aza-CR) on leukemic colony-forming units (LCFU) was observed in mice with transplanted L1210 leukemia. LCFU showed rapid reaccumulation in the marrow 12 hr after injection of 0.1 mg of aza-CR per mouse. However, after 0.5 mg of aza-CR, repopulation was delayed for at least 6 days. Experiments were performed to determine the mechanism of this prolonged antileukemic effect. Suspensions of leukemic marrow prepared from mice treated 4 days previously with 0.5 mg of aza-CR were exposed to [3H]thymidine in vitro in order to kill cells in S phase. Suspensions exhibited a 40% reduction in LCFU, indicating the prolonged effect was not due to cell cycle progression delay. Mice given whole-body irradiation prior to receiving L1210 demonstrated the same delayed repopulation following the high dose of aza-CR as nonirradiated mice, suggesting that the effect was likely not due to an immune reaction.

aza-CR, when given to normal mice as long as 2 days prior to leukemic transplantation, was able to prolong the survival of leukemic mice, but not when given at longer intervals. Administration of aza-CR to mice 1 day or 1 hr prior to leukemic transplantion resulted in decreased LCFU survival as well as delayed repopulation of LCFU; the rate of repopulation was not changed. This indicated a prolonged residual activity of the drug, but not sufficient to explain the total in vivo suppression.

In contrast, administration of aza-CR to leukemic mice suppressed repopulation of a subsequent leukemic transplant for 4 days, even when the cells were given 2 days after the aza-CR. Cytidine was partially able to reverse the delayed repopulation of LCFU when given 1 day after aza-CR, but it was unable to reverse the phenomenon 2 days after aza-CR. Therefore, a high dose of aza-CR produces a prolonged antileukemic effect which is probably mediated by continued availability of an aza-CR metabolite. Since this effect is more pronounced in leukemic mice than in nonleukemic mice, the pharmacokinetics of high doses of aza-CR probably differ in normal and leukemic mice.


Supported in part by USPHS Grant CA 13053 and Contract NO1 CM-43731 from the National Cancer Institute and the Multimodality Oncology Project of The Jewish Hospital of St. Louis. Presented in part at the 11th International Cancer Congress, Florence, Italy, October 20 to 26, 1974 (10) and the 66th Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, San Diego, Calif., May 7 to 11, 1975 (12).

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