5′-OH-thalidomide, a metabolite of thalidomide, inhibits angiogenesis

Douglas K. Price, Yuichi Ando, Erwin A. Kruger, Michael Weiss, William D. Figg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Despite its known teratogenic effects, thalidomide has been used to treat a variety of diseases ranging from alleviation of autoimmune disorders to prevention of metastasis of cancers. The exact method of action of thalidomide and its derivatives is still under investigation. Thalidomide undergoes very little metabolism by the cytochrome P450 system in vitro, but at least two hydroxylated metabolites have been found in humans. The two metabolites are 5-hydroxythalidomide, formed by hydroxylation of the phthalimide ring, possibly via arene oxides, and 5′-hydroxythalidomide, formed by hydroxylation of the glutarimide ring, leading to diastereomeric products. These two metabolites, along with another minor metabolite of thalidomide, were tested in a rat aortic ring assay, a human saphenous vein model, and a tube formation assay to assess the metabolite's ability to inhibit angiogenesis. Of the metabolites tested, only 5′-OH-thalidomide showed biologic activity in the rat aortic ring assay, and none of the metabolites showed activity in the human model. The studies with thalidomide and thalidomide metabolites underline the difficulty and complexity of trying to isolate and evaluate a single biologically active agent. These studies, however, do suggest that at least one metabolite, 5′-OH-thalidomide, has moderate antiangiogenic activity at high concentrations. Unfortunately, because of the lack of observed activity of 5′-OH-thalidomide in the human saphenous vein assay, it remains unclear whether there is species specificity for the activity of this metabolite.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104-110
Number of pages7
JournalTherapeutic Drug Monitoring
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Angiogenesis
  • Cytochrome P
  • Thalidomide


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