Also Known As: Altretamine, Hexalen

Altretamine (also hexalen) is an antineoplastic agent. It was approved by the FDA in 1990.

It is used to treat refractory ovarian cancer.

It is not considered a first-line treatment,[1] but it can be useful as salvage therapy.[2] It also has the advantage of being less toxic than other drugs used for treating refractory ovarian cancer.[3]

The precise mechanism by which altretamine exerts its anti-cancer effect is unknown but it is classified by MeSH as an alkylating antineoplastic agent.[4] This unique structure is believed to damage tumor cells through the production of the weakly alkylating species formaldehyde, a product of CYP450-mediated N-demethylation. Administered orally, altretamine is extensively metabolized on first pass, producing primarily mono- and didemethylated metabolites. Additional demethylation reactions occur in tumor cells, releasing formaldehyde in situ before the drug is excreted in the urine. The carbinolamine (methylol) intermediates of CYP450-mediated metabolism also can generate electrophilic iminium species that are capable of reacting covalently with DNA guanine and cytosine residues as well as protein. Iminium-mediated DNA cross-linking and DNA-protein interstrand cross-linking, mediated through both the iminium intermediate and formaldehyde, have been demonstrated, although the significance of DNA cross-linking on altretamine antitumor activity is uncertain.[5

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