Axitinib: A Photoswitchable Approved Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor

  • Dorian Schmidt
  • Theo Rodat
  • Linda Heintze
  • Jantje Weber
  • Rebecca Horbert
  • Ulrich Girreser
  • Tim Raeker
  • Lara Bußmann
  • Malte Kriegs
  • Bernd Hartke
  • Christian Peifer


The goal of photopharmacology is to develop photoswitchable enzyme modulators as tunable (pro-)drugs that can be spatially and temporally controlled by light. In this context, the tyrosine kinase inhibitor axitinib, which contains a photosensitive stilbene-like moiety that allows for E/Z isomerization, is of interest. Axitinib is an approved drug that targets the vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 (VEGFR2) and is licensed for second-line therapy of renal cell carcinoma. The photoinduced E/Z isomerization of axitinib has been investigated to explore if its inhibitory effect can be turned "on" and "off", as triggered by light. Under controlled light conditions, (Z)-axitinib is 43 times less active than that of the E isomer in an VEGFR2 assay. Furthermore, it was proven that kinase activity in human umbilical vein cells (HUVECs) was decreased by (E)-axitinib, but only weakly affected by (Z)-axitinib. By irradiating (Z)-axitinib in vitro with UV light (λ=385 nm), it is possible to switch it almost quantitatively into the E isomer and to completely restore the biological activity of (E)-axitinib. However, switching the biological activity off from (E)- to (Z)-axitinib was not possible in aqueous solution due to a competing irreversible [2+2]-photocycloaddition, which yielded a biologically inactive axitinib dimer.

Bibliografische Daten

StatusVeröffentlicht - 20.11.2018
PubMed 30199151