Glycoconjugation to target the Warburg effect provides the potential to enhance selective uptake of anticancer or imaging agents by cancer cells. A Warburg effect targeting group, rationally designed to facilitate uptake by glucose transporters and promote cellular accumulation due to phosphorylation by hexokinase (HK), has been synthesised. This targeting group, the C2 modified glucose analogue 2-(2-[2-(2-aminoethoxy)ethoxy]ethoxy)-D-glu-cose, has been conjugated to the fluorophore nitrobenzoxadiazole to evaluate its effect on uptake and accumulation in cancer cells. The targeting vector has demonstrated inhibition of glucose phosphorylation by HK, indicating its interaction with the enzyme and thereby confirming the potential to facilitate an intracellular trapping mechanism for compounds it is conjugated with. The cellular uptake of the fluorescent analogue is dependent on the glucose concentration and is so to a greater extent than is that of the widely used fluorescent glucose analogue, 2-NBDG. It also demonstrates selective uptake in the hypoxic regions of 3D spheroid tumour models whereas 2-NBDG is distributed primarily through the normoxic regions of the spheroid. The increased selectivity is consistent with the blocking of alternative uptake pathways.
Glenister, A., Simone, M. I., & Hambley, T. W. (2019). A Warburg effect targeting vector designed to increase the uptake of compounds by cancer cells demonstrates glucose and hypoxia dependent uptake. PLoS ONE, 14(7). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0217712