Studies of the mechanism of antitumour activity of N-methylformamide

  • Colin A. Bill

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


NMF induces the terminal differentiation or acquisition of more benign characteristics in certain malignant cells in vitro and has good antitumour activity against murine tumours in vivo. This study was concerned with a comparison of the mechanism of antitumour activity of NMF in vitro and in vivo against the murine TLX5 lymphoma, which is sensitive to NMF in vivo. TLX5 cells incubated continuously with NMF in vitro showed a concentration and time dependent decrease in cell growth rate, which was associated with an increase in membrane permeability, a decrease in cell size and at the higher NMF concentrations, cell death. Analysis of the cell cycle after incubation with NMF indicated an early G1 phase arrest. TLX5 cells were incubated with NMF and washed free of the drug. Analysis of clonogenicity and tumourigenicity showed that all viable cells retained their proliferative potential and malignancy. Therefore, TLX5 cells exposed to NMF in vitro are not terminally differentiated, but reside in a quiescent substate which was reversed on drug removal. The intracellular GSH levels of TLX5 cells was decreased in a concentration and time dependent fashion by NMF. GSH depletion of TLX5 cells was not however a prerequisite for growth arrest, unlike the reported data for human colon carcinoma cell lines. A single administration of NMF caused a dose dependent regression of the TLX5 lymphoma in tumour bearing mice. Cell death occurred by apoptosis and necrosis. The antitumour activity of NMF was dependent on formyl C-H bond fission, with the parent drug or metabolites reaching all parts of the tumour 4h after dosing. There was a non-dose dependent increase in the S phase population, which was due to an increase in DNA synthesis, 24h after administration of NMF. NMF administration caused a decrease in GSH levels of the TLX5 lymphoma, which did not correlate with the antitumour response. However, the GSH depleting agent, BSO, marginally increased the antitumour activity of NMF.
Date of Award1987
Original languageEnglish


  • mechanism
  • antitumour activity
  • N-methylformamide

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