The DNA damage response (DDR) comprises a range of mechanisms that ensure the integrity of the genome. As part of the DDR and in response to specific DNA damage, the master kinases ATM, ATR and DNA-PK are activated in a coordinated fashion inducing cell cycle arrest and repair of the damage before resuming DNA replication. Alternatively they may induce apoptosis if the DNA damage is incompatible with cell viability. Due to their genetic instability, tumour cells may be more reliant on the DNA damage response and so inhibiting specific DDR components may lead to antitumour activity while minimizing toxicity in normal tissue. ATR (Ataxia telangectasia and Rad 3 mutated) is recruited at specific sites of DNA damage, namely ssDNA (single stranded DNA) coated with RPA (Replication Protein A). ATR activates downstream substrates that regulate replication fork progression, cell cycle checkpoint, and DNA repair proteins. Here we report the discovery of AZ20, a novel potent and selective inhibitor of ATR kinase identified by screening a subset of the AZ compound collection against the target enzyme. In vitro, AZ20 decreases pChk1 Ser345, pChk1 Ser317 and pChk1 Ser296 levels in a concentration-dependent manner. Prolonged exposure with AZ20 increases γH2AX pan-nuclear staining, indicative of replication stress. This is associated with S-phase arrest and increase in phospho-histone H3. AZ20 induces growth inhibition and cell death in vitro and its profile of activity is distinct from other cytotoxic agents such as platinum derivatives, permetrexed or docetaxel. The cytotoxic effect of AZ20 can be increased in combination with the selective ATM inhibitor KU-60019. AZ20 induces significant tumour growth inhibition in vivo at well tolerated doses. This is associated with a persistent elevation of γH2AX pan-nuclear staining in xenograft tissue, but a transient increase in mouse bone marrow at therapeutic doses, suggesting a favourable therapeutic index.

Citation Format: {Authors}. {Abstract title} [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 103rd Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research; 2012 Mar 31-Apr 4; Chicago, IL. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2012;72(8 Suppl):Abstract nr 1823. doi:1538-7445.AM2012-1823