Preclinical antitumor activity of the azonafide series of anthracene-based DNA intercalators

Robert T. Dorr, James D. Liddil, Salah M. Sami, William Remers, Evan M. Hersh, David S. Alberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The azonafides are a series of anthracene-based DNA intercalators which inhibit tumor cell growth in vitro at low nanomolar concentrations and are not affected by the multidrug resistance phenomenon (MDR). Prior studies have described antitumor efficacy in murine tumor models including L-1210 and P-388 leukemias, and B-16 melanoma. The current results extend these cell line observations to human tumors tested in the NCI panel of 56 cell lines, in freshly isolated tumors tested in colony-forming assays in soft agar and in several animal models. In the NCI panel, the overall mean 50% cell kill (LC50) for the unsubstituted azonafide, AMP-1, was 10-5.53 M, with some selectivity noted in melanomas (10-6.22 M). The mean LC50 for the 6-ethoxy substituted analog, AMP-53, was 10-5.53 M, with some selectivity found in non-small cell lung cancer (10-5.91) and renal cell carcinoma (10-5.84). In freshly isolated human tumors tested in soft agar, there was marked activity (mean IC50 in μg/ml) for AMP-53 in four cell types: Breast cancer (0.09), lung cancer (0.06), renal cell carcinomas (0.06) and multiple myeloma (0.03). These effects were superior to doxorubicin and to several other azonafides, including AMP-1, AMP-104 and the 6-hydroxyethoxy derivative, AMP-115. Compound AMP-1 was shown to be superior to amonafide in the mammary 16C breast cancer model in B6CF31 mice, but it had little activity in Colon-38 nor in M5076 ovarian sarcomas in vivo. Nine azonafides were evaluated in the Lewis lung cancer model in C57/bl mice, but only AMP-53 demonstrated significant efficacy with a treated/control × 100% (T/C) value of 30%. Because AMP-53 demonstrated the greatest breadth of activity, it was then evaluated in several human tumor cell lines growing in mice with severe combined immunodeficiency disease (SClD). Only three tumors were sensitive (T/C < 42%), including HL-60 leukemia (T/C=39%), MCF-7 breast cancer (T/C=39%) and A549 non-small cell lung cancer (T/C=37%). Overall, these results demonstrate that the 6-ethoxy substituted azonafide, AMP-53, has consistent (in vitro and in vivo) experimental antitumor activity in human breast and lung cancer, and could be considered for clinical testing in patients with MDR tumors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-220
Number of pages8
JournalAnti-cancer drugs
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 17 2001


  • Anthracene
  • Azonafide
  • DNA intercalator

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Cancer Research


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