An effort has been made to determine the mechanism by which the immunomodulator 3,6-bis(2-piperidinoethoxy)acridine trihydrochloride (CL 246,738) enhances the cytotoxic activity of natural killer (NK) cells. Orally administered CL 246,738 produced augmentation of NK cell activity in mice in a dose-related fashion over a dose range of 10 to 160 mg/kg, with a peak stimulation occurring at 40 mg/kg. The stimulatory effect was short-lived and only persisted for 3 days after a single oral dose of the drug. However, it could be boosted by a subsequent treatment. With anti-asialo GM-1 (anti-ASGM-1) antibody used as an NK cell marker, it was determined that the compound increased the number of ASGM-1-positive cells in mice, as indicated by radioimmunoassay and immunofluorescence staining. NK cells of beige mice were also activated by CL 246,738. Furthermore, the compound at concentrations of 0.02 to 0.2 microgram/ml induced NK cell activity in vitro, with a minimum 3-day incubation being required for optimal activation. This effect was dependent on the presence of macrophages and was inhibited by anti-IFN-alpha + beta but not anti-IFN-beta antibody. Taken together, it is postulated that the compound functions by stimulating macrophages to release IFN-alpha, which subsequently activates NK cells. As an effective stimulator of IFN and NK cells, CL 246,738 may prove clinically useful in the immunotherapy of certain types of malignancy.

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