Oncology reports

Novel cis-restricted β-lactam combretastatin A-4 analogues display anti-vascular and anti-metastatic properties in vitro.

PMID 23232969


Combretastatin A-4 (CA-4) is a naturally occurring microtubular-destabilising agent that possesses potent anti-tumour and anti-vascular properties both in vitro and in vivo. Clinical trials to date indicate that its water-soluble prodrug, combretastatin A-4 phosphate (CA-4P), is well tolerated at therapeutically useful doses. However, the stilbenoid structure of CA-4, consisting of two phenyl rings linked by an ethylene bridge, renders the compound readily susceptible to isomerisation from its biologically active cis-conformation to its more thermodynamically stable but inactive trans-isomer. To circumvent this problem, we synthesised a series of cis-restricted CA-4 analogues. Replacement of the ethylene bridge with a 1,4-diaryl-2-azetidinone (β-lactam) ring provided a rigid scaffold thus preventing cis-trans isomerisation. We previously documented that these tubulin-depolymerising β-lactam compounds potently induced cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in a variety of cancerous cell lines (including those displaying multidrug resistance) and ex vivo patient samples, whilst exerting only minimal toxicity to normal cells. The purpose of this study was to elucidate the effect of the β-lactam compounds on both tumour vascularisation and tumour cell migration, two critical elements that occur during the growth and metastatic progression of tumours. We established that two representative β-lactam compounds, CA-104 and CA-432, exerted both anti-endothelial effects [G2/M arrest and apoptosis of primary human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs)] and anti-angiogenic effects [inhibition of HUVEC migration and differentiation and reduced vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) release from MDA-MB-231 breast adenocarcinoma cells]. In addition, we established that lead analogue, CA-432, abrogated the migration of MDA-MB-231 cells indicating an anti-metastatic function for these compounds. In summary, our results to date collectively indicate that these cis-restricted β-lactam CA-4 analogues may prove to be useful alternatives to CA-4 in the treatment of cancer but with the added advantage of improved stability of the cis-isomer.