Hypoxia is a feature of some regions of many tumours, ischaemic events, and arthritis. Drugs activated in hypoxia have wide potential application, particularly in overcoming the resistance of hypoxic tumour cells to radiotherapy. Key features of such drugs include redox properties appropriate for activation by reductase enzymes (typically flavoproteins), and oxygen-sensitive reduction chemistry such that normal levels of oxygen inhibit or reverse reduction. In many cases this selectivity is achieved by a fast, free-radical reaction in which the drug radical (often an obligate intermediate in drug reduction) reduces oxygen to form superoxide radicals and thus ‘futile cycles’ the drug in normoxic tissues. However, this enhances cellular oxidative stress, which may be linked to normal tissue toxicity. Appropriate redox properties are found with nitroarene, quinone, or aromatic N-oxide moieties. A particularly promising and versatile exploitation of bioreductive activation is for reduction of such ‘triggers’ to activate release of an ‘effector’, an agent that can obviously be active against diverse conditions associated with hypoxia. The same approach can also be used in diagnosis of hypoxia. Much information concerning the reactions of intermediates in drug action and the quantitative prediction of redox properties of analogues has been accrued. Drug design can be mechanism-led, with the wealth of literature quantifying redox properties of drug candidates a rich source of potential new leads. There is a clear appreciation of the kinetic factors that limit drug efficacy or selectivity. Thus the potential for rapid expansion of these concepts to diverse diseases is considerable.
Keywords: Electron Transfer, Oxidative Stress as, Hypoxia, tumours, Ischaemic, arthritis, radiotherapy, Stroke, Quindoxin, BIOREDUCTIVE DRUGS
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