Development of cytarabine prodrugs and delivery systems for leukemia treatment

Authors: Chhikara, Bhupender S; Parang, Keykavous

Source: Expert Opinion on Drug Delivery, Volume 7, Number 12, December 2010 , pp. 1399-1414(16)

Publisher: Informa Healthcare

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Importance of the field: Cytarabine is a polar nucleoside drug used for the treatment of myeloid leukemia and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The drug has a short plasma half-life, low stability and limited bioavailability. Overdosing of patients with continuous infusions may lead to side effects. Thus, various prodrug strategies and delivery systems have been explored extensively to enhance the half-life, stability and delivery of cytarabine. Among the recent cytarabine prodrugs, amino acid conjugate ValCytarabine and fatty acid derivative CP-4055 (in Phase III trials) have been investigated for the treatment of leukemia and solid tumors, respectively. Alternatively, delivery systems of cytarabine have emerged for the treatment of different cancers. The liposomal-cytarabine formulation (DepoCyt, Pacira Pharmaceuticals Inc., New Jersey, USA) has been approved for the treatment of lymphomatous meningitis.

Areas covered in this review: Various prodrug strategies evaluated for cytarabine are discussed. Then, the review summarizes the drug delivery systems that have been used for more effective cancer therapy.

What the reader will gain: This review provides in-depth discussion of the prodrug strategy and delivery systems of cytarabine derivatives for the treatment of cancer. The design of cytarabine prodrugs and delivery systems provides insights for designing the next generation of more effective anticancer agents with enhanced delivery and stability.

Take home message: Strategies on designing cytarabine prodrug and delivery formulations showed great promise in developing effective anticancer agents with better therapeutic profile. Similar studies with other anticancer nucleosides can be an alternative approach to gaining access to more effective anticancer agents.

Keywords: amino acid; araC; arabinofuranosylcytosine; chitosan; cytarabine; delivery system; fatty acid-cytarabine; liposome; nanoparticle; prodrug

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Rhode Island, College of Pharmacy, Department of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, 41 Lower College Road, Kingston, RI 02881, USA +1 401 874 4471; +1 401 874 5787;, Email:

Publication date: December 1, 2010

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