Curative chemotherapy for acute myeloid leukemia: the development of high-dose ara-C from the laboratory to bedside
- Cite this article as:
- Capizzi, R.L. Invest New Drugs (1996) 14: 249. doi:10.1007/BF00194527
In the bench to bedside development of drugs to treat patients with cancer, the common guide to dose and schedule selection is toxicity to normal organs patterned after the preclinical profile of the drug. An understanding of the cellular pharmacology of the drug and specifically the cellular targets linked to the drug's effect is of substantial value in assisting the clinical investigator in selecting the proper dose and schedule of drug administration. The clinical development of ara-C for the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) provides a useful paradigm for the study of this process. An understanding of the cellular pharmacology, cytokinetics and pharmacokinetics of ara-C in leukemic mice showed substantial schedule-dependency. Exposure to high doses for a short duration (C × t) resulted in a palliative therapeutic outcome. In marked contrast, exposure to lower doses for a protracted period (c × T) was curative. Clinical use of ara-C in patients with AML patterned after the murine experience, c × T approach, has been of limited benefit in terms of long-term disease-free survival. Studies with human leukemia blasts from patients have shown that for the majority of patients, the initial rate-limiting step is membrane transport, the characteristics of which are substantially affected by extracellular drug concentration (dose). This pharmacologic impediment is eliminated with the blood levels attained during the infusion of gram doses (1–3 gm/m2) of the drug (high-dose ara-C, HiDaC) for shorter periods of time, a C × t approach. Clinical confirmation of these pharmacologic observations is evident in the therapeutic efficacy of HiDaC in patients with relapsed or SDaC-refractory acute leukemia. This is further emphasized by the significantly improved leukemia-free survival of patients with AML treated with HiDaC intensification during remission compared to those patients treated with milligram doses typical of SDaC protocols. Thus, the identification and monitoring of important parameters of drug action in tumors during the course of a clinical trial can be of substantial assistance in optimizing drug dose and schedule so as to attain the best therapeutic index.