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Systematic (IUPAC) name
1-methyl-1-nitroso-3-[2,4,5-trihydroxy-6- (hydroxymethyl) oxan-3-yl]-urea
CAS number 18883-66-4
ATC code L01AD04
PubChem 29327
DrugBank APRD00209
Chemical data
Formula C8H15N3O7 
Mol. mass 265.221 g/mol
Pharmacokinetic data
Bioavailability  ?
Metabolism  ?
Half life 5-15 minutes
Excretion  ?
Therapeutic considerations
Pregnancy cat.


Legal status
Routes  ?

Streptozotocin (Streptozocin, STZ, Zanosar) is a naturally occurring chemical that is particularly toxic to the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas in mammals. It is used in medicine for treating certain cancers of the Islets of Langerhans and used in medical research to produce an animal model for Type 1 diabetes.



Streptozotocin is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating metastatic cancer of the pancreatic islet cells. Since it caries a substantial risk of toxicity and rarely cures the cancer, its use is generally limited to patients whose cancer cannot be removed by surgery. In these patients, streptozotocin can reduce the tumor size and reduce symptoms (especially hypoglycemia due to excessive insulin secretion by insulinomas).[1]

A typical dose is 500 mg/m2/day by intravenous injection, for 5 days, repeated every 4-6 weeks.

Mechanism of action

Streptozotocin is a glucosamine-nitrosourea compound. As with other alkylating agents in the nitrosourea class, it is toxic to cells by causing damage to the DNA, though other mechanisms may also contribute. Streptozotocin is similar enough to glucose to be transported into the cell by the glucose transport protein GLUT2, but is not recognized by the other glucose transporters. This explains its relative toxicity to beta cells, since these cells have relatively high levels of GLUT2.[2][3]


Streptozotocin was originally identified in the late 1950s as an antibiotic.[4] The drug was discovered in a strain of the soil microbe Streptomyces achromogenes by scientists at the drug company Upjohn (now part of Pfizer) in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The soil sample in which the microbe turned up had been taken from Blue Rapids, Kansas, which can therefore be considered the birthplace of streptozotocin. Upjohn filed for patent protection for the drug in August 1958 and U.S. Patent 3,027,300  was granted in March 1962.

In the mid-1960s streptozotocin was found to be selectively toxic to the beta cells of the pancreatic islets, the cells that normally regulate blood glucose levels by producing the hormone insulin. This suggested the drug's use as an animal model of type I diabetes,[5] and as a medical treatment for cancers of the beta cells.[6] In the 1960s and 1970s the National Cancer Institute investigated streptozotocin's use in cancer chemotherapy. Upjohn filed for FDA approval of streptozotocin as a treatment for pancreatic islet cell cancer in November 1976, and approval was granted in July 1982. The drug was subsequently marketed as Zanosar. Streptozotocin is now marketed by the generic drug company Sicor (Teva).


  1. ^ Brentjens R, Saltz L (2001). "Islet cell tumors of the pancreas: the medical oncologist's perspective". Surg Clin North Am 81 (3): 527-42. PMID 11459269.
  2. ^ Wang Z, Gleichmann H (1998). "GLUT2 in pancreatic islets: crucial target molecule in diabetes induced with multiple low doses of streptozotocin in mice". Diabetes 47 (1): 50-6. PMID 9421374.
  3. ^ Schnedl WJ, Ferber S, Johnson JH, Newgard CB (1994). "STZ transport and cytotoxicity. Specific enhancement in GLUT2-expressing cells". Diabetes 43 (11): 1326-33. PMID 7926307.
  4. ^ Vavra JJ, Deboer C, Dietz A, Hanka LJ, Sokolski WT (1959). "Streptozotocin, a new antibacterial antibiotic". Antibiot Annu 7: 230-5. PMID 13841501.
  5. ^ Mansford KR, Opie L (1968). "Comparison of metabolic abnormalities in diabetes mellitus induced by streptozotocin or by alloxan". Lancet 1 (7544): 670-1. PMID 4170654.
  6. ^ Murray-Lyon IM, Eddleston AL, Williams R, Brown M, Hogbin BM, Bennett A, Edwards JC, Taylor KW (1968). "Treatment of multiple-hormone-producing malignant islet-cell tumour with streptozotocin". Lancet 2 (7574): 895-8. PMID 4176152.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Streptozotocin". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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