All-trans-N-(4-hydroxyphenyl)retinamide or fenretinide (4-HPR) acts by reactive oxygen species (ROS) and dihydroceramides (DHCers). In early-phase clinical trials 4-HPR has achieved complete responses in T-cell lymphomas (TCL) and neuroblastoma (NB) and signals of activity in ovarian cancer (OV). We defined the activity of 4-HPR metabolites in N-(4-methoxyphenyl)retinamide (MPR), 4-oxo-N-(4-hydroxyphenyl)retinamide (oxoHPR), and the 4-HPR isomer 13-cis-fenretinide (cis-HPR) in NB, OV, and TCL cell lines cultured in physiological hypoxia.
We compared the effect of 4-HPR, cis-HPR, oxoHPR, and MPR on cytotoxicity, ROS, and DHCers in a panel of TCL, NB, and OV cell lines cultured in bone marrow level physiological hypoxia (5% O2), utilizing a fluorescence-based cytotoxicity assay (DIMSCAN), flow cytometry, and quantitative mass spectrometry.
4-HPR (10 µmol/l) achieved more than three logs of cell kill in nine of 15 cell lines. Cytotoxicity of 4-HPR and oxoHPR was comparable; in some cell lines, cis-HPR cytotoxicity was lower than 4-HPR, but additive when combined with 4-HPR. MPR was not cytotoxic. ROS and DHCers were equivalently increased by 4-HPR and oxoHPR in all cell lines (P<0.01), to a lesser extent by cis-HPR (P<0.01), and not increased in response to MPR (P>0.05). Mitochondrial membrane depolarization, caspase-3 cleavage, and apoptosis (TUNEL) were all significantly increased by 4-HPR and oxoHPR (P<0.01).
Cytotoxic and pharmacodynamic activity was comparable with 4-HPR and oxoHPR, lower with cis-HPR, and MPR was inactive. Neither MPR or cis-HPR antagonized 4-HPR activity. These data support focusing on achieving high 4-HPR exposures for maximizing antineoplastic activity.