Cancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology

, Volume 52, Issue 3, pp 253–261 | Cite as

The activity of camptothecin analogues is enhanced in histocultures of human tumors and human tumor xenografts by modulation of extracellular pH

  • James L. Flowers
  • Robert M. Hoffman
  • Timothy A. Driscoll
  • Monroe E. Wall
  • Mansukh C. Wani
  • Govindarajan Manikumar
  • Henry S. Friedman
  • Mark Dewhirst
  • O. Michael Colvin
  • David J. AdamsEmail author
Original Article



Most solid human tumors exist in an acidic microenvironment, due in part to inefficient vasculature and a higher intrinsic rate of glycolysis. This leads to a tumor-selective pH gradient, which can be exploited therapeutically with antitumor agents such as the camptothecins (CPTs). Previous work in this laboratory has shown that camptothecin activity is enhanced 40- to 60-fold in monolayer cell culture by reducing the extracellular pH to 6.8. Three-dimensional histoculture has been shown to be a technique that allows human tumor tissue to grow in an in vivo-like way with maintenance of tissue histology and function and drug sensitivity for long periods of time.


In the current study, we utilized these features of histoculture to study new analogues of camptothecin that have superior pharmacological properties.


We evaluated six CPT analogues in histocultures of human brain, neuroblastoma, breast, colon, and prostate tumors. Fragments were exposed to 10,11-methylenedioxy-CPT (MDC), 7-chloromethyl-MDC, SN-38, topotecan (TPT), 9-amino-CPT, 10-amino-CPT, paclitaxel, 5-fluorouracil, 4-hydroperoxycyclophosphamide and doxorubicin, and antitumor activity was assessed. For in vivo tumor outgrowth studies, fragments were treated in parallel, implanted into nude mice, and monitored for development of tumors.


Against 15 of 16 tumor xenografts and all primary tumor samples tested, all compounds were cytotoxic at pH 7.4 (IC50 range 13–921 μM). MDC, SN-38, TPT, and 9-amino-CPT achieved an average 5-fold increase in activity (range 3–14) at pH 6.8, while 7-chloromethyl-MDC was enhanced 8-fold (range 6–14). The most potentiated analogue was 10-amino-CPT at 27-fold (range 17–49). In contrast, the other agents were active against one or more tumor types but were not enhanced by acidic pH. Importantly, the toxicity of MDC in histoculture of D54 glioma xenografts strongly correlated with the outgrowth of treated fragments subsequently implanted in vivo.


Evaluation of anticancer drug activity in native-state histoculture supports the concept that pH modulation may be an important approach to improve the selectivity and antitumor effectiveness of camptothecin-based chemotherapy.


Camptothecin Histoculture pH modulation In vitro drug screening 



This work is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Monroe E. Wall. The authors wish to acknowledge Alan Proia and Duke Surgical Pathology for invaluable assistance with procuring the primary human tissue samples and Stacey Snyder of Duke Radiation Oncology Department, Ray Liao and Dr. David Price of Duke Urology Department and Steve Keir of Duke Neurooncology Department for expert technical assistance and providing xenografts for histoculture experiments. This work was supported by NIH grant U01 CA68697-02.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • James L. Flowers
    • 1
    • 4
  • Robert M. Hoffman
    • 2
  • Timothy A. Driscoll
    • 1
  • Monroe E. Wall
    • 3
  • Mansukh C. Wani
    • 3
  • Govindarajan Manikumar
    • 3
  • Henry S. Friedman
    • 1
  • Mark Dewhirst
    • 1
  • O. Michael Colvin
    • 1
  • David J. Adams
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Duke University Medical CenterDurhamUSA
  2. 2.AntiCancer, Inc.San DiegoUSA
  3. 3.Research Triangle InstituteUSA
  4. 4.Department of MedicineDuke University Medical CenterDurhamUSA

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