Cardiotoxicity represents the major side-effect limiting the clinical use of anthracyclines, especially doxorubicin, in cancer chemotherapy. The use of non-toxic prodrugs, or of liposome-encapsulated drugs, allows a better targeting of the tumours and may, therefore, improve the tolerance to the treatment. Using the model of isolated perfused rat heart, we have evaluated the cardiotoxicity of a novel prodrug of doxorubicin, HMR-1826, which consists of the association of doxorubicin to glucuronic acid. We have compared the cardiac effects (developed pressure, contractility and relaxation of the left ventricle) induced by HMR-1826 to those induced by doxorubicin and Doxil, a liposomal form of doxorubicin. HMR-1826 was administered intravenously every other day for 11 days at doses of 50–200 mg kg−1 per injection while doxorubicin was administered according to the same protocol at doses of 1–3 mg kg−1 per injection. Doxorubicin strongly decreased the cardiac functional parameters at the doses of 2.5 and 3 mg kg−1 per injection. Doxil (3 mg kg−1) and HMR-1826 (50–150 mg kg−1) were largely devoid of cardiotoxicity. HMR-1826 only induced significant alterations of the cardiac function at the highest dose used (200 mg kg−1 per injection). These alterations were much lower than those of doxorubicin at 2.5 mg kg−1 per injection, despite similar general toxicity symptoms (weight loss, nose bleeding and diarrhoea) at these respective doses. Thus, HMR-1826 appeared about 100-fold less cardiotoxic than doxorubicin. © 1999 Cancer Research Campaig
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