Twelve novel 20-sulfonylamidine derivatives (9a-9l) of camptothecin (1) were synthesized via a Cu-catalyzed three-component reaction. They showed similar or superior cytotoxicity compared with that of irinotecan (3) against A-549, DU-145, KB, and multidrug-resistant (MDR) KBvin tumor cell lines. Compound 9a demonstrated better cytotoxicity against MDR cells compared with that of 1 and 3. Mechanistically, 9a induced significant DNA damage by selectively inhibiting Topoisomerase (Topo) I and activating the ATM/Chk related DNA damage-response pathway. In xenograft models, 9a demonstrated significant activity without overt adverse effects at 5 and 10 mg/kg, comparable to 3 at 100 mg/kg. Notably, 9a at 300 mg/kg (i.p.) showed no overt toxicity in contrast to 1 (LD50 56.2 mg/kg, i.p.) and 3 (LD50 177.5 mg/kg, i.p.). Intact 9a inhibited Topo I activity in a cell-free assay in a manner similar to that of 1, confirming that 9a is a new class of Topo I inhibitor. 20-Sulfonylamidine 1-derivative 9a merits development as an anticancer clinical trial candidate.
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