9-Aminocamptothecin (9-AC) is a topoisomerase I inhibitor currently being developed as an antineoplastic agent. The aim of these preclinical studies was to assess the activity of 9-AC against prostate cancer, a malignancy notoriously insensitive to most cytotoxic agents in the clinic. The activity of 9-AC was first tested in vitro against one hormone-sensitive (LNCaP) and three hormone-resistant (PC-3, PC-3M, and DU145) human prostate cancer cell lines. After 96 h of drug exposure, concentrations required to inhibit cell viability to 50% of control values (IC50s) were 34.1, 10, 6.5, and 8.9 nm for PC-3, PC-3M, DU145, and LNCaP, respectively. Because 9-AC is known to undergo rapid hydrolysis, we assayed lactone levels in tissue culture medium over 24 h and found that the half-life was 20 min, with only 15%of the drug remaining as lactone at steady state. Consequently, the IC50s calculated from a single dose of the drug may represent overestimates. Subsequently, we tested the activity of a colloidal dispersion formulation of 9-AC against PC-3 implanted into flanks of nude mice. 9-AC was given for a total of 3 weeks by daily oral gavage (excluding weekends) or by twice weekly s.c. injections. 9-AC inhibited tumor growth at the lowest oral dose (0.35 mg/kg/day), whereas higher oral doses (0.75 and 1 mg/kg/day) and s.c. administration (4 mg/kg/week) caused tumor regression. 9-AC was well tolerated at all doses, with no toxic death or weight loss of more than 10% observed in any group. Finally, we considered that the activity of 9-AC seen in the mouse xenograft model might be explained, in part, by the relatively acidic tumor microenvironment, which would favor the formation of the more potent lactone. Simultaneous determination of plasma and tumor 9-AC lactone concentrations confirmed this hypothesis. Taken together, these studies suggest that 9-AC should be submitted for clinical trials in patients with prostate cancer.

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