, Volume 63, Issue 1, pp 157-166,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 18 Mar 2008

Preclinical discovery of ixabepilone, a highly active antineoplastic agent

Abstract

The epothilones and their analogs constitute a novel class of antineoplastic agents, produced by the myxobacterium Sorangium cellulosum. These antimicrotubule agents act in a similar manner to taxanes, stabilizing microtubules and resulting in arrested tumor cell division and apoptosis. Unlike taxanes, however, epothilones and their analogs are macrolide antibiotics, with a distinct tubulin binding mode and reduced susceptibility to a range of common tumor resistance mechanisms that limit the effectiveness of taxanes and anthracyclines. While natural epothilones A and B show potent antineoplastic activity in vitro, these effects were not seen in preclinical in vivo models due to their poor metabolic stability and unfavorable pharmacokinetics. A range of epothilone analogs was synthesized, therefore, with the aim of identifying those with more favorable characteristics. Here, we describe the preclinical characterization and selection of ixabepilone, a semi-synthetic epothilone B analog, among many other epothilone analogs. Ixabepilone demonstrated superior preclinical characteristics, including high metabolic stability, low plasma protein binding and low susceptibility to multidrug resistance protein-mediated efflux, all of which were predictive of potent in vivo cell-killing activity. Ixabepilone also demonstrated in vivo antitumor activity in a range of human tumor models, several of which displayed resistance to commonly used agents such as anthracyclines and taxanes. These favorable preclinical characteristics have since translated to the clinic. Ixabepilone has shown promising phase II clinical efficacy and acceptable tolerability in a wide range of cancers, including heavily pretreated and drug-resistant tumors. Based on these results, a randomized phase III trial was conducted in anthracycline-pretreated or resistant and taxane-resistant metastatic breast cancer to evaluate ixabepilone in combination with capecitabine. Ixabepilone combination therapy showed significantly superior progression-free survival and tumor responses over capecitabine alone.