Camptothecin-11 (CPT-11) is a new derivative of camptothecin, a plant alkaloid antitumor agent, and a good candidate for clinical trials because of higher antitumor activity, less toxicity, and high aqueous solubility. CPT-11 is known to be altered into an active form, SN-38, by esterase in in vivo.

CPT-11-resistant cells (PC-7/CPT) established from a human non-small cell lung cancer cell (PC-7) by stepwise, continuous treatment with CPT-11 exhibit about a 10-fold increase in resistance to the drug. CPT-11-resistant cells show a moderate cross-resistance to camptothecin (×8.6) and SN-38 (×8.6), and weak cross-resistance to Adriamycin (×2.2) and 5-fluorouracil (×2.4).

The comparative studies between the parent (PC-7) and resistant (PC-7/CPT) cell lines with respect to their growth characterization shows a longer cell doubling time (45.8 versus 35.5 h), a lower cloning efficiency (3.2 versus 7.1%), and a lower population of S-phase cells (26.4 versus 36.0%) in the CPT-11-resistant cells. This observation may partly explain the resistance to CPT-11, a drug whose activity is cell cycle specific.

Accumulation of CPT-11 is nearly the same in both cell lines. However, the intracellular concentration of SN-38 formed in the parent cells was 2-fold greater than in the CPT-11-resistant cells. This alteration may affect to some extent to the resistance.

As assayed by relaxation of supercoiled plasmid DNA, the total activity of DNA topoisomerase I from the CPT-11-resistant cells was shown to be reduced to one-fourth its level in sensitive cells. The reduced activity was caused by a reduction of amount of DNA topoisomerase I. Furthermore, the enzyme from the resistant cells was shown to be 5-fold more resistant to CPT-11 than the enzyme from the parent cells. Thus, decreased total activity of topoisomerase I may play an important role in cellular resistance to CPT-11, and it appears that this decreased activity is due to a resistant form of topoisomerase I in CPT-11 resistant cells.

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This work was supported by a Grants-in-Aid for cancer research from the Comprehensive Ten-Year Strategy for Cancer Control, from the Ministry of Health and Welfare, Japan.

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