Converting bleomycin into a prodrug that undergoes spontaneous reactivation under physiological conditions

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Bleomycin is an anticancer antibiotic effective against a range of human malignancies. Yet its usefulness is limited by serious side effects. In this study, we converted bleomycin into a prodrug by covalently linking 2-sulfo, 9 fluorenylmethoxycarbonyl (FMS) to the primary amino side chain of bleomycin. FMS—bleomycin lost its efficacy to bind transition metal ions and therefore was converted into an inactive derivative. Upon incubation in vitro under physiological conditions, the FMS-moiety undergoes spontaneous hydrolysis, generating native bleomycin possessing full anti-bacterial potency. FMS hydrolysis and reactivation takes place with a t1/2 value of 17 ± 1 h. In silico simulation predicts a narrow therapeutic window in human patients of seven hours, starting 40 min after administration. In mice, close agreement was obtained between the experimental and the simulated pharmacokinetic profiles for FMS-bleomycin. FMS-bleomycin is thus shown to be a classical prodrug: it is inactive at the time of administration and the non-modified (active) bleomycin is released with a desirable pharmacokinetic profile following administration, suggesting it may have therapeutic value in the clinic.HighlightsBleomycin was turned into inactive-reactivated prodrug.The prodrug is inactive due to its inability to bind transition metal ions.Reactivation proceeds at a slow desirable rate under physiological conditions.Simulation of the pharmacokinetics of such prodrugs was established.The simulated and experimental pharmacokinetic profiles overlap.

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