2020 Volume 68 Issue 3 Pages 201-211
Auristatins are important payloads used in antibody drug conjugates (ADCs), and the most well-known compound family member, monomethyl auristatin (MMAE), is used in two Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved ADCs, Adcetris® and Polivy®. Multiple other auristatin-based ADCs are currently being evaluated in human clinical trials and further studies on this class of molecule are underway by several academic and industrial research groups. Our group's main focus is to investigate the structure–activity relationships (SAR) of novel auristatins with the goal of applying these to next generation ADCs. Modifications of the auristatin backbone scaffold have been widely reported in the chemical literature focusing on the terminal subunits: P1 (N-terminus) and P5 (C-terminus). Our approach was to modulate the activity and hydrophilic character through modifications of the central subunits P2-P3-P4 and thorough SAR study on the P5 subunit. Novel hydrophilic auristatins were observed to have greater potency in vitro and displayed enhanced in vivo antitumor activity when conjugated via protease-cleavable linkers and delivered intracellularly. Analysis of ADC aggregation also indicated that novel hydrophilic payloads enabled the synthesis of high-drug-to-antibody ratio (DAR) ADCs that were resistant to aggregation. Modification of the central peptide subunits also resulted in auristatins with potent cytotoxic activity in vitro and these azide-modified auristatins contain a handle for linker attachment from the central portion of the auristatin backbone.