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Flavone acetic acid represents a novel chemical structure currently undergoing clinical investigation. Broad spectrum activity has been observed in preclinical animal screens, but at doses close to toxic in mice. Phase I clinical trials have established that equivalent plasma drug levels can be achieved in humans, but to date Phase II trials have not demonstrated significant activity in a range of tumor types. Little is known about the drug's biotransformation, although metabolites have been implicated in proposed mechanisms of action. In this paper, we have purified the two major human metabolites present in urine (also the only two metabolites detected in plasma) and characterized their structure, chemical properties, activity, and pharmacokinetics. Metabolite 1 (M1) was a glucuronide conjugated to the 8-acetic acid grouping (Mr 456), was chemically labile, and showed a strong tendency to undergo chemical rearrangement at mildly alkaline pH. Metabolite 2 (M2) was also a glucuronide (Mr 456) but appeared to be an unusual isomer of M1. Both were noncytotoxic. In patients, biotransformation represented the predominant mechanism of drug clearance with as much as 80% of a low dose (0.5 g/m2) recovered in urine as M1 and M2 after only 6 h. At high dose (4.8 to 8.6 g/m2, 1- to 6-h infusion) the appearance of peak concentrations of metabolites in plasma and urine was delayed, apparently due to saturation of glucuronidation pathways. This resulted in an overall reduction in drug clearance by 3- to 4-fold. Mice cleared flavone acetic acid much more slowly than patients (289 ml/h/m2 after 600 mg/m2 i.p. versus 2.3 liters/h/m2 after 4.8 g/m2-1-h i.v. infusion) without producing M1 or M2. A different metabolite, exhibiting characteristics of a conjugate, was detected at low concentrations in plasma, tissues, and tumor. Extensive metabolism to inactive products followed by their rapid clearance may contribute to the lack of activity so far seen in humans.


Journal article


Cancer Res

Publication Date





3587 - 3593


Animals, Antineoplastic Agents, Biotransformation, Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid, Dose-Response Relationship, Drug, Flavonoids, Humans, Mice, Neoplasms, Experimental, Species Specificity, Tissue Distribution