Camptothecin: Current perspectives

Craig J. Thomas, Nicolas J. Rahier, Sidney M. Hecht

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

411 Scopus citations


This review provides a detailed discussion of recent advances in the medicinal chemistry of camptothecin, a potent antitumor antibiotic. Two camptothecin analogues are presently approved for use in the clinic as antitumor agents and several others are in clinical trials. Camptothecin possesses a novel mechanism of action involving the inhibition of DNA relaxation by DNA topoisomerase I, and more specifically the stabilization of a covalent binary complex formed between topoisomerase I and DNA. This review summarizes the current status of studies of the mechanism of action of camptothecin, including topoisomerase I inhibition and additional cellular responses. Modern synthetic approaches to camptothecin and several of the semi-synthetic methods are also discussed. Finally, a systematic evaluation of novel and important analogues of camptothecin and their contribution to the current structure-activity profile are considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1585-1604
Number of pages20
JournalBioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


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