Lipids and Membrane Microdomains: The Glycerolipid and Alkylphosphocholine Class of Cancer Chemotherapeutic Drugs

  • Vanina ZarembergEmail author
  • Suriakarthiga Ganesan
  • Mark Mahadeo
Part of the Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology book series (HEP, volume 259)


Synthetic antitumor lipids are metabolically stable lysophosphatidylcholine derivatives, encompassing a class of non-mutagenic drugs that selectively target cancerous cells. In this chapter we review the literature as relates to the clinical efficacy of these antitumor lipid drugs and how our understanding of their mode of action has evolved alongside key advances in our knowledge of membrane structure, organization, and function. First, the history of the development of this class of drugs is described, providing a summary of clinical outcomes of key members including edelfosine, miltefosine, perifosine, erufosine, and erucylphosphocholine. A detailed description of the biophysical properties of these drugs and specific drug–lipid interactions which may contribute to the selectivity of the antitumor lipids for cancer cells follows. An updated model on the mode of action of these lipid drugs as membrane disorganizing agents is presented. Membrane domain organization as opposed to targeting specific proteins on membranes is discussed. By altering membranes, these antitumor lipids inhibit many survival pathways while activating pro-apoptotic signals leading to cell demise.


Antitumor lipids Lateral membrane organization Lipid rafts Lysophosphatidylcholine analogues Membrane microdomains Non-mutagenic 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vanina Zaremberg
    • 1
    Email author
  • Suriakarthiga Ganesan
    • 1
  • Mark Mahadeo
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

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