Neurological Cancer Research, LSU Health Sciences Center, New Orleans, LA; Stanley S. Scott Cancer Center at LSU Health Sciences Center, New Orleans, LA; School of Medicine, LSU Health Sciences Center, New Orleans, LA. Electronic address: [Email]
Anticancer effects of a common lipid-lowering drug, fenofibrate, have been described in the literature for a quite some time; however, fenofibrate has not been used as a direct anticancer therapy. We have previously reported that fenofibrate in its unprocessed form (ester) accumulates in the mitochondria, inhibits mitochondrial respiration, and triggers a severe energy deficit and extensive glioblastoma cell death. However, fenofibrate does not cross the blood brain barrier and is quickly processed by blood and tissue esterases to form the PPARα agonist fenofibric acid, which is practically ineffective effective in triggering cancer cell death. To address these issues, we have made several chemical modifications in fenofibrate structure to increase its stability, water solubility, tissue penetration, and ultimately anticancer potential. Our data show that, in comparison to fenofibrate, four new compounds designated here as PP1, PP2, PP3, and PP4 have improved anticancer activity in vitro. Like fenofibrate, the compounds block mitochondrial respiration and trigger massive glioblastoma cell death in vitro. In addition, one of the lead compounds, PP1, has improved water solubility and is significantly more stable when exposed to human blood in comparison to fenofibrate. Importantly, mice bearing large intracranial glioblastoma tumors demonstrated extensive areas of tumor cell death within the tumor mass following oral administration of PP1, and the treated mice did not show any major signs of distress, and accumulated PP1 at therapeutically relevant concentrations in several tissues, including brain and intracranial tumors.