The therapeutic efficacy of many anticancer drugs against intracerebral tumors is limited by poor uptake into the central nervous system. One way to enhance brain delivery is to design agents that are transported into the brain by the saturable nutrient carriers of the blood-brain barrier. In this paper, we describe a nitrogen mustard amino acid, dl-2-amino-7-bis[(2-chloroethyl)amino]-1,2,3,4-tetrahydro-2-naphthoic acid, that is taken up into brain with high affinity by the large neutral amino acid carrier of the blood-brain barrier. Brain transport of dl-2-amino-7-bis[(2-chloroethyl)amino]-1,2,3,4-tetrahydro-2-naphthoic acid in the rat was found to be rapid (cerebrovascular permeability-surface area product ∼2 × 10−2 ml/s/g), saturable and inhibitable by large neutral amino acids. Maximal influx rate (Vmax) and half-saturation (Km) constants equaled 0.26 nmol/min/g and 0.19 µm, respectively, in the parietal cortex. Regional brain uptake of dl-2-amino-7-bis[(2-chloroethyl)amino]-1,2,3,4-tetrahydro-2-naphthoic acid exceeded that of the clinical analogue, melphalan, by >20-fold. The results demonstrate that drug modification to produce high-affinity ligands for the cerebrovascular nutrient carriers is a viable means to enhance drug delivery to brain for the treatment of brain tumors and other central nervous system disorders.

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