Despite an intensive search, few water-soluble paclitaxel derivatives have been shown to have a therapeutic index superior to paclitaxel itself. We now report a water-soluble poly(l-glutamic acid)-paclitaxel conjugate (PG-TXL) that produces striking antitumor effects with diminished toxicity. A single i.v. injection of PG-TXL at its maximum tolerated dose (defined as that dose that produces a maximum 12–15% body weight loss within 2 weeks after a single i.v. injection) equivalent to 60 mg of paclitaxel/kg and at even a lower dose equivalent to 40 mg of paclitaxel/kg resulted in the disappearance of an established implanted 13762F mammary adenocarcinoma (mean size, 2000 mm3) in rats. (An equivalent dose of PG-TXL is the amount of conjugate that contains the stated amount of paclitaxel.) Similarly, mice bearing syngeneic OCA-1 ovarian carcinoma (mean size, 500 mm3) were tumor-free within 2 weeks after a single i.v. injection of the conjugate at a dose equivalent to 160 mg of paclitaxel/kg. The conjugate has little if any intrinsic tubulin polymerization activity in vitro and is > 20 times less potent in supporting the growth of a paclitaxel-dependent CHO mutant cell line. PG-TXL has a prolonged half-life in plasma and greater uptake in tumor as compared with paclitaxel. Furthermore, only a small amount of total radioactivity from PG-[3H]TXL was recovered as free [3H]paclitaxel in either the plasma or the tumor tissue within 144 h after drug injection. Histological studies of tumor tissues obtained from mice treated with PG-TXL show fewer apoptotic cells but more extensive tumor necrosis as compared with paclitaxel treatment. These data suggest that in addition to its role as a carrier for selective delivery of paclitaxel to the tumor, PG-TXL exerts distinct pharmacological actions of its own that may contribute to its remarkable antitumor efficacy.

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Supported in part by NIH Grant R29-CA74819-01, by the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center Breast Cancer Research Program, and by the Gianturco Fund.

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