Chemoprevention drug development has the goal of identifying safe and effective chemopreventive agents for clinical use. Several distinctive strategies are pursued in developing chemopreventive agents: (a) identifying and validating predysplastic and early dysplastic lesions that can be used instead of cancers as endpoints for measuring chemopreventive activity; (b) identifying and testing candidate agents based on considerations of mechanisms of action; (c) evaluating combinations of agents with potential for maximizing efficacy and minimizing toxicity; and (d) applying a systematic methodology for identifying and ranking candidate agents at each stage of development to ensure discovery of the best agents and most effective use of available resources. This article discusses 22 drugs and three drug combinations which have reached an advanced stage of development as chemopreventive agents. The first generation of drugs are the most advanced, now being in Phase II and Phase III clinical trials. These drugs include several retinoids [vitamin A, 13-cis-retinoic acid, all-trans-N-(4-hydroxyphenyl)retinamide], calcium, beta-carotene, tamoxifen, and finasteride. The second generation drugs are those in Phase I clinical trials. From most to least advanced, these drugs are 2-difluoromethylornithine, sulindac, piroxicam, oltipraz, N-acetyl-I-cysteine, aspirin, ibuprofen, carbenoxolone, 18 beta-glycyrrhetinic acid, and the combination of 2-difluoromethylornithine with piroxicam. The third generation includes agents with significant evidence of chemopreventive activity in animal models. These agents are now in preclinical toxicity testing. They are S-allyl-I-cysteine, phenhexyl isothiocyanate, curcumin, ellagic acid, fumaric acid, fluasterone, and the combinations of all-trans-N-(4-hydroxyphenyl)retinamide with oltipraz and all-trans-N-(4-hydroxyphenyl) retinamide with tamoxifen.

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