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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Development of beta-lapachone prodrugs for therapy against human cancer cells with elevated NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase 1 levels.

beta-Lapachone, an o-naphthoquinone, induces a novel caspase- and p53-independent apoptotic pathway dependent on NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase 1 (NQO1). NQO1 reduces beta-lapachone to an unstable hydroquinone that rapidly undergoes a two-step oxidation back to the parent compound, perpetuating a futile redox cycle. A deficiency or inhibition of NQO1 rendered cells resistant to beta-lapachone. Thus, beta-lapachone has great potential for the treatment of specific cancers with elevated NQO1 levels (e.g., breast, non-small cell lung, pancreatic, colon, and prostate cancers). We report the development of mono(arylimino) derivatives of beta-lapachone as potential prodrugs. These derivatives are relatively nontoxic and not substrates for NQO1 when initially diluted in water. In solution, however, they undergo hydrolytic conversion to beta-lapachone at rates dependent on the electron-withdrawing strength of their substituent groups and pH of the diluent. NQO1 enzyme assays, UV-visible spectrophotometry, high-performance liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry, and nuclear magnetic resonance analyses confirmed and monitored conversion of each derivative to beta-lapachone. Once converted, beta-lapachone derivatives caused NQO1-dependent, mu-calpain-mediated cell death in human cancer cells identical to that caused by beta-lapachone. Interestingly, coadministration of N-acetyl-l-cysteine, prevented derivative-induced cytotoxicity but did not affect beta-lapachone lethality. Nuclear magnetic resonance analyses indicated that prevention of beta-lapachone derivative cytotoxicity was the result of direct modification of these derivatives by N-acetyl-l-cysteine, preventing their conversion to beta-lapachone. The use of beta-lapachone mono(arylimino) prodrug derivatives, or more specifically a derivative converted in a tumor-specific manner (i.e., in the acidic local environment of the tumor tissue), should reduce normal tissue toxicity while eliciting tumor-selective cell killing by NQO1 bioactivation.[1]


  1. Development of beta-lapachone prodrugs for therapy against human cancer cells with elevated NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase 1 levels. Reinicke, K.E., Bey, E.A., Bentle, M.S., Pink, J.J., Ingalls, S.T., Hoppel, C.L., Misico, R.I., Arzac, G.M., Burton, G., Bornmann, W.G., Sutton, D., Gao, J., Boothman, D.A. Clin. Cancer Res. (2005) [Pubmed]
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