Anticancer activities of adenine nucleotides in mice are mediated through expansion of erythrocyte ATP pools.
ATP and AMP exhibit significant anticancer activities against established footpad CT26 colon adenocarcinoma in CB6F1 mice. Adenosine, inorganic phosphate, and inorganic pyrophosphate were without such effects under identical conditions. Daily intraperitoneal injections of adenine nucleotides in large volumes of saline, starting after the tumors became palpable, resulted in inhibition of tumor growth and a few "cures." The treatment was not toxic to the host as determined by changes in body weights. Weight loss observed in animals upon progression of the fast-growing CT26 tumors was slowed markedly in adenine nucleotide-treated mice. The inhibition of weight loss in tumor-bearing mice was shown to be neither the cause nor the effect of the inhibition of tumor growth. Intraperitoneal injections of AMP or ATP but not of adenosine yielded expansions of erythrocyte ATP pools in host animals. The expanded erythrocyte ATP pools are stable over a period of hours, while slowly releasing micromolar amounts of ATP into the blood plasma compartment, leading to several-fold increases in plasma (extracellular) ATP levels. Based on previous studies in which 1-5 microM extracellular ATP effectively inhibited the growth of a variety of tumor cells in several in vitro systems, it is suggested that similar levels of ATP in blood plasma account for the anticancer activities observed in a murine host.