Penclomedine [3,5-dichloro-4,6-dimethoxy-2-(trichloromethyl)pyridine], an antitumor agent, is currently in Phase I clinical trials and is believed to be a prodrug. In these studies, cerebellar effects have been dose limiting. Previous studies identified 4-demethylpenclomedine (4-DM-PEN) as the major plasma metabolite in rodents and humans. 4-DM-PEN was demonstrated to be an antitumor-active metabolite of penclomedine in vivo when evaluated against the penclomedine-sensitive MX-1 human breast tumor xenograft implanted either s.c. or intracerebrally and is believed to be on the metabolic activation pathway of penclomedine. Because earlier studies revealed an absence of neurotoxic cerebellar effects for 4-DM-PEN in contrast to penclomedine in a rat model, this metabolite may be a candidate for an alternative to penclomedine in the clinic for treatment of breast cancer or brain tumors, if the cerebellar effects of penclomedine preclude its further clinical development. Because neither penclomedine nor 4-DM-PEN were very active in vitro, the metabolism of penclomedine was also investigated using rat liver microsomes in an attempt to identify the ultimate active form of the drug. Metabolites and putative metabolites were prepared by chemical synthesis for antitumor evaluation in vitro and in vivo. A reductive metabolite, α,α-didechloro-PEN, was observed to be much more cytotoxic than penclomedine or 4-DM-PEN in vitro, but evaluation of this and the other metabolites and putative metabolites in vivo against the MX-1 tumor failed to identify any active metabolite among the structures evaluated other than 4-DM-PEN. The limited activity of 4-DM-PEN in vitro indicates that it, like penclomedine, is also a prodrug, demonstrating a need for additional studies on the metabolic activation of penclomedine to identify the ultimate active form of the drug.

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Supported by NCI Contract NO1-CM-17560-01 and Grant PO1 CA34200 from the Department of Health and Human Services.

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