Converting bleomycin into a prodrug that undergoes spontaneous reactivation under physiological conditions

Itzik Cooper*, Dana Atrakchi, Michael D. Walker, Amnon Horovitz, Mati Fridkin, Yoram Shechter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bleomycin is an anticancer antibiotic effective against a range of human malignancies. Yet its usefulness is limited by serious side effects. In this study, we converted bleomycin into a prodrug by covalently linking 2-sulfo, 9 fluorenylmethoxycarbonyl (FMS) to the primary amino side chain of bleomycin. FMS—bleomycin lost its efficacy to bind transition metal ions and therefore was converted into an inactive derivative. Upon incubation in vitro under physiological conditions, the FMS-moiety undergoes spontaneous hydrolysis, generating native bleomycin possessing full anti-bacterial potency. FMS hydrolysis and reactivation takes place with a t1/2 value of 17 ± 1 h. In silico simulation predicts a narrow therapeutic window in human patients of seven hours, starting 40 min after administration. In mice, close agreement was obtained between the experimental and the simulated pharmacokinetic profiles for FMS-bleomycin. FMS-bleomycin is thus shown to be a classical prodrug: it is inactive at the time of administration and the non-modified (active) bleomycin is released with a desirable pharmacokinetic profile following administration, suggesting it may have therapeutic value in the clinic.

Original languageEnglish
Article number114782
JournalToxicology and Applied Pharmacology
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Bleomycin
  • Conjugate
  • Pharmacokinetic
  • Prodrug
  • Simulation
  • Therapeutic Window


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