Prodrugs of butyric acid. Novel derivatives possessing increased aqueous solubility and potential for treating cancer and blood diseases

Abraham Nudelman, Elisheva Gnizi, Yifat Katz, Revital Azulai, Mirit Cohen-Ohana, Regina Zhuk, Sanford R. Sampson, Leah Langzam, Eitan Fibach, Eugenia Prus, Victoria Pugach, Ada Rephaeli

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33 Scopus citations


The synthesis and biological activities of acidic, basic and neutral types of butyric acid (BA) prodrugs possessing increased aqueous solubility are described. The compounds are butyroyloxyalkyl derivatives of carboxylic acids, which possess functionalities suitable for aqueous solubilization. The anticancer activity of the prodrugs in vitro was evaluated by examining their effect on the growth of human colon, breast and pancreatic carcinoma cell lines, and their solubility in aqueous media was determined. The most promising compounds, with respect to activity and solubility, were found to be the butyroyloxymethyl esters of glutaric 2a and nicotinic acids 4a and phosphoric acid as its diethyl ester 10a, which displayed IC50 values of 100 μM or lower. These prodrugs are expected to release formaldehyde upon metabolic hydrolysis. The corresponding butyroyloxyethyl esters (2b, 4b and 10b) that release acetaldehyde upon metabolism were significantly less potent. A similar correlation was observed for growth inhibition of the human prostate carcinoma cell lines PC-3 and LnCap and for induction of differentiation and apoptosis in the human myeloid leukemia cell line HL-60. The higher biological activity of the formaldehyde-releasing prodrugs 2a and 10a was further confirmed when induction of hemoglobin (Hb) synthesis in the human erythroleukemic cell line K562 was measured. Moreover, a therapeutic index (IC50/ED50) of ca. 5 was observed. The acute i.p. toxicity LD50 in mice for 2a, 2b, 10a and 10b was similar and in the range of 400-600 mg kg-1. The results obtained support the potential use of the butyric acid prodrugs for the treatment of neoplastic diseases and β-globin disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-74
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Journal of Medicinal Chemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2001

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Generous support for this work by Beacon Laboratories and the ‘Marcus Center for Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Chemistry’ and the ‘Bronia and Samuel Hacker Fund for Scientific Instrumentation’ at Bar Ilan University, are gratefully acknowledged.


  • Anticancer
  • Butyric acid
  • Prodrugs
  • Water solubility


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