Mitomycin C: A prototype bioreductive agent

A. C. Sartorelli, W. F. Hodnick, M. F. Belcourt, M. Tomasz, B. Haffty, J. J. Fischer, S. Rockwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

111 Scopus citations


Hypoxic cells of solid tumors represent a therapeutically resistant population that limits the curability of many solid tumors by x-irradiation and by most chemotherapeutic agents. The oxygen deficit, however, creates an environment conducive to reductive processes that results in a major exploitable difference between normal and neoplastic tissues. Mitomycin C (MC) can be reductively activated by a number of oxidoreductases, in a process required for the production of its therapeutic effects. This enzymatic reduction results in preferential activation of MC under hypoxia and, in most instances, the production of greater toxicity to oxygen- deficient cells than to their oxygenated counterparts. DNA appears to be the most important target of the reactive species generated from MC, with both mono- and bis-adducts of DNA being formed in drug-treated cells. The demonstration that MC, used to kill the hypoxic fraction, in combination with x-irradiation, to eradicate the oxygenated portion of the tumor, produced enhanced cytodestructive effects on solid tumors of animals has led to the clinical evaluation of the mitomycin antibiotics in combination with x-rays in patients with cancers of the head and neck. The findings from these clinical trials have demonstrated the utility of directing a concerted therapeutic attack on the hypoxic fraction of solid tumors as an approach toward enhancing the curability of localized neoplasms by x-irradiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)501-508
Number of pages8
JournalOncology Research
Issue number10-11
StatePublished - 1994

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


  • DNA adducts
  • hypoxic cells
  • mitomycin C
  • oxidoreductase enzymes
  • reductive activation

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