Gimatecan, a novel camptothecin with a promising preclinical profile

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The realization that position 7 of camptothecin allows several options in chemical manipulation of the drug has stimulated a systematic investigation of a variety of substituents in this position. These efforts resulted in the identification of a novel series of 7-oxyiminomethyl derivatives. Among compounds of this series we have selected a promising lipophilic derivative, gimatecan, for further development. The relevant features of gimatecan are: (i) marked cytotoxic potency, likely related to multiple factors, including a potent inhibition of topoisomerase I, a persistent stabilization of the cleavable complex, an increased intracellular accumulation and a peculiar subcellular localization; (ii) lack of recognition by known resistance-related transport systems; (iii) increased lactone stability and favorable pharmacokinetics; (iv) good oral bioavailability; and (v) an impressive antitumor efficacy in a large panel of human tumor xenografts, with various treatment schedules. Phase I clinical studies with oral administration support the preclinical results of the novel camptothecin. Using different schedules and dosing durations, gimatecan exhibited an acceptable toxicity profile, with myelotoxicity being the dose-limiting toxic effect. An appreciable number of tumor responses was achieved and favorable pharmacokinetics with a very long terminal half-life was observed. The clinical development of gimatecan is currently ongoing, with phase II studies in diverse tumor types (colon, lung, breast carcinoma and pediatric tumors).

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