Significance of targeting polyamine metabolism as an antineoplastic strategy: Unique targets for polyamine analogues

Robert A. Casero, Benjamin Frydman, Tracy Murray Stewart, Patrick M. Woster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The polyamines, putrescine, spermidine, and spermine, are naturally occurring polycationic alkylamines that are absolutely required for eukaryotic cell growth. Importantly, the polyamine metabolic pathway, as well as the requirement of polyamines for cell growth, is frequently dysregulated in cancer cells, thus providing a unique set of targets for therapeutic intervention. Ornithine decarboxylase (ODC), a rate-limiting enzyme in polyamine biosynthesis, is frequently up-regulated in preneoplastic cells, and has been implicated as an oncogene in multiple tumor types. Several model systems have demonstrated that inhibition of ODC's enzymatic activity and down-regulation of its expression are rational strategies for both chemotherapy and chemoprevention. Specific inhibitors of ODC, most notably 2-difluoromethylornithine (DFMO), have been used experimentally to validate polyamine metabolism as an antineoplastic strategy. However, multiple biochemical and clinical limitations to these ODC-targeting strategies minimize their value as therapeutic tools. Included among these limitations are poor bioavailability of the inhibitor, and the compensatory up-regulation of polyamine metabolism and transport that allow tumor cells to escape the growth inhibitory effects of blockers specifically targeting ODC. As a strategy to overcome the limitations of direct enzyme inhibition, several groups have pursued the design of polyamine analogues that specifically target the dysregulated polyamine metabolism found in tumors. These analogues have been developed specifically to target the specific polyamine transporter, thus competing with circulating natural polyamines. Additionally, most of the analogues examined thus far maintain the regulatory function of the natural polyamines, but are unable to functionally substitute for them in promoting growth. Specifically, individual analogues have demonstrated the ability to down-regulate each of the biosynthetic enzymes without causing compensatory increases in parallel systems or increases in polyamine uptake. Additionally, specific analogues produce tumor specific up regulation of the rate-limiting enzymes in polyamine catabolism. These results are particularly significant in that the products of polyamine catabolism, including H 2O2, have been demonstrated to participate in the tumoricidal activity of specific analogues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24-30
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the Western Pharmacology Society
StatePublished - 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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