Ascites interferes with the activity of lurbinectedin and trabectedin: Potential role of their binding to alpha 1-acid glycoprotein

E. Erba, M. Romano, M. Gobbi, M. Zucchetti, M. Ferrari, C. Matteo, N. Panini, B. Colmegna, G. Caratti, L. Porcu, R. Fruscio, M. V. Perlangeli, D. Mezzanzanica, D. Lorusso, F. Raspagliesi, M. D'Incalci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Trabectedin and its analogue lurbinectedin are effective drugs used in the treatment of ovarian cancer. Since the presence of ascites is a frequent event in advanced ovarian cancer we asked the question whether ascites could modify the activity of these compounds against ovarian cancer cells. The cytotoxicity induced by trabectedin or lurbinectedin against A2780, OVCAR-5 cell lines or primary culture of human ovarian cancer cells was compared by performing treatment in regular medium or in ascites taken from either nude mice or ovarian cancer patients. Ascites completely abolished the activity of lurbinectedin at up to 10 nM (in regular medium corresponds to the IC90), strongly reduced that of trabectedin, inhibited the cellular uptake of lurbinectedin and, to a lesser extent, that of trabectedin. Since α1-acid glycoprotein (AGP) is present in ascites at relatively high concentrations, we tested if the binding of the drugs to this protein could be responsible for the reduction of their activity. Adding AGP to the medium at concentration range of those found in ascites, we reproduced the anticytotoxic effect of ascites. Erythromycin partially restored the activity of the drugs, presumably by displacing them from AGP. Equilibrium dialysis experiments showed that both drugs bind AGP, but the affinity of binding of lurbinectedin was much greater than that of trabectedin. KD values are 8 ± 1.7 and 87 ± 14 nM for lurbinectedin and trabectedin, respectively. The studies intimate the possibility that AGP present in ascites might reduce the activity of lurbinectedin and to a lesser extent of trabectedin against ovarian cancer cells present in ascites. AGP plasma levels could influence the distribution of these drugs and thus they should be monitored in patients receiving these compounds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-62
Number of pages11
JournalBiochemical Pharmacology
Publication statusPublished - Nov 15 2017


  • Ascites
  • Lurbinectedin
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Trabectedin
  • α1-Acid glycoprotein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Pharmacology


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