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Among the 25 bis(cyclopentadienyl)vanadium(IV) and 14 oxovanadium(IV) compounds synthesised and evaluated for anticancer activity, bis(4,7-dimethyl-1,10-phenanthroline) sulfatooxovanadium(IV) (metvan) was identified as the most promising multitargeted anticancer vanadium complex with apoptosis-inducing activity. At nanomolar and low micromolar concentrations, metvan induces apoptosis in human leukaemia cells, multiple myeloma cells and solid tumour cells derived from breast cancer, glioblastoma, ovarian, prostate and testicular cancer patients. It is highly effective against cisplatin-resistant ovarian cancer and testicular cancer cell lines. Metvan is much more effective than the standard chemotherapeutic agents dexamethasone and vincristine in inducing apoptosis in primary leukaemia cells from patients with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, acute myeloid leukaemia or chronic acute myeloid leukaemia. Metvan-induced apoptosis is associated with a loss of mitochondrial transmembrane potential, the generation of reactive oxygen species and depletion of glutathione. Treatment of leukaemia cells from acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, acute myeloid leukaemia and chronic acute myeloid leukaemia patients with metvan inhibits the constitutive expression as well as the gelatinolytic activities of matrix metalloproteinase-9 and -2. Treatment of human malignant glioblastoma and breast cancer cells with metvan at concentrations > 1 microM is associated with a nearly complete loss of the adhesive, migratory and invasive properties of the treated cancer cell populations. Metvan shows favourable pharmacokinetics in mice and does not cause acute or subacute toxicity at the dose levels tested (12.5 - 50 mg/kg). Therapeutic plasma concentrations > or = 5 microM, which are highly cytotoxic against human cancer cells, can be rapidly achieved and maintained in mice for at least 24 h after intraperitoneal bolus injection of a single 10 mg/kg non-toxic dose of metvan. Metvan exhibits significant antitumour activity, delays tumour progression and prolongs survival time in severe combined immunodeficient mouse xenograft models of human malignant glioblastoma and breast cancer. The broad spectrum anticancer activity of metvan together with favourable pharmacodynamic features and lack of toxicity warrants further development of this oxovanadium compound as a new anticancer agent. Metvan could represent the first vanadium complex as an alternative to platinum-based chemotherapy.


Osmond J D'Cruz, Fatih M Uckun. Metvan: a novel oxovanadium(IV) complex with broad spectrum anticancer activity. Expert opinion on investigational drugs. 2002 Dec;11(12):1829-36

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PMID: 12457442

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