Chloroquine and its analogs: a new promise of an old drug for effective and safe cancer therapies.

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Eur J Pharmacol. 2009 Dec 25;625(1-3):220-33. Epub 2009 Oct 15.

Chloroquine and its analogs: a new promise of an old drug for effective and safe cancer therapies.


Tumor Biology Group, Northeastern Ontario Regional Cancer Program at the Sudbury Regional Hospital, 41 Ramsey Lake Road, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada P3E 5J1.


Chloroquine (CQ), N'-(7-chloroquinolin-4-yl)-N,N-diethyl-pentane-1,4-diamine, is widely used as an effective and safe anti-malarial and anti-rheumatoid agent. CQ was discovered 1934 as "Resochin" by Andersag and co-workers at the Bayer laboratories. Ironically, CQ was initially ignored for a decade because it was considered too toxic to use in humans. CQ was "re-discovered" during World War II in the United States in the course of anti-malarial drug development. The US government-sponsored clinical trials during this period showed unequivocally that CQ has a significant therapeutic value as an anti-malarial drug. Consequently, CQ was introduced into clinical practice in 1947 for the prophylaxis treatment of malaria (Plasmodium vivax, ovale and malariae). CQ still remains the drug of choice for malaria chemotherapy because it is highly effective and well tolerated by humans. In addition, CQ is widely used as an anti-inflammatory agent for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, lupus erythematosus and amoebic hepatitis. More recently, CQ has been studied for its potential as an enhancing agent in cancer therapies. Accumulating lines of evidence now suggest that CQ can effectively sensitize cell-killing effects by ionizing radiation and chemotherapeutic agents in a cancer-specific manner. The lysosomotrophic property of CQ appears to be important for the increase in efficacy and specificity. Although more studies are needed, CQ may be one of the most effective and safe sensitizers for cancer therapies. Taken together, it appears that the efficacy of conventional cancer therapies can be dramatically enhanced if used in combination with CQ and its analogs.