Click Activated Protodrugs Against Cancer Increase the Therapeutic Potential of Chemotherapy through Local Capture and Activation

02 November 2020, Version 2
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


A desired goal of targeted cancer treatments is to achieve high tumor specificity with minimal side effects. Despite recent advances, this remains difficult to achieve in practice as most approaches rely on biomarkers or physiological differences between malignant and healthy tissue, and thus benefit only a subset of patients in need of treatment. To address this unmet need, we introduced a Click Activated Protodrugs Against Cancer (CAPAC) platform that enables targeted activation of drugs at a specific site in the body, i.e., a tumor. In contrast to antibodies (mAbs, ADCs) and other targeted approaches, the mechanism of action is based on in vivo click chemistry, and is thus independent of tumor biomarker expression or factors such as enzymatic activity, pH, or oxygen levels. The platform consists of a tetrazine-modified sodium hyaluronate-based biopolymer injected at a tumor site, followed by one or more doses of a trans-cyclooctene (TCO)- modified cytotoxic protodrug with attenuated activity administered systemically. The protodrug is captured locally by the biopolymer through an inverse electron-demand Diels-Alder reaction between tetrazine and TCO, followed by conversion to the active drug directly at the tumor site, thereby overcoming the systemic limitations of conventional chemotherapy or the need for specific biomarkers of traditional targeted therapy. Here, TCO-modified protodrugs of four prominent cytotoxics (doxorubicin, paclitaxel, etoposide and gemcitabine) are used, highlighting the modularity of the CAPAC platform. In vitro evaluation of cytotoxicity, solubility, stability and activation rendered the protodrug of doxorubicin, SQP33, as the most promising candidate for in vivo studies. Studies in rodents show that a single injection of the tetrazine-modified biopolymer, SQL70, efficiently captures SQP33 protodrug doses given at 10.8-times the maximum tolerated dose of conventional doxorubicin with greatly reduced systemic toxicity.


Click Chemistry
Bioorthogonal chemistry
Drug development
cancer therapeutics


Comments are not moderated before they are posted, but they can be removed by the site moderators if they are found to be in contravention of our Commenting Policy [opens in a new tab] - please read this policy before you post. Comments should be used for scholarly discussion of the content in question. You can find more information about how to use the commenting feature here [opens in a new tab] .
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy [opens in a new tab] and Terms of Service [opens in a new tab] apply.