Investigational New Drugs

, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 288–298 | Cite as

A phase IIa study of HA-irinotecan, formulation of hyaluronic acid and irinotecan targeting CD44 in extensive-stage small cell lung cancer

  • Muhammad Alamgeer
  • D. Neil Watkins
  • Ilia Banakh
  • Beena Kumar
  • Daniel J. Gough
  • Ben Markman
  • Vinod Ganju


Preclinical studies in small cell lung cancer (SCLC) have shown that hyaluronic acid (HA) can be effectively used to deliver chemotherapy and selectively decrease CD44 expressing (stem cell-like) tumour cells. The current study aimed to replicate these findings and obtain data on safety and activity of HA-irinotecan (HA-IR). Eligible patients with extensive stage SCLC were consented. A safety cohort (n = 5) was treated with HA-IR and Carboplatin (C). Subsequently, the patients were randomised 1:1 to receive experimental (HA-IR + C) or standard (IR + C) treatment, to a maximum of 6 cycles. The second line patients were added to the study and treated with open label HA-IR + C. Tumour response was measured after every 2 cycles. Baseline tumour specimens were stained for CD44s and CD44v6 expression. Circulating tumour cells (CTCs) were enumerated before each treatment cycle. Out of 39 patients screened, 34 were evaluable for the study. The median age was 66 (range 39–83). The overall response rates were 69% and 75% for experimental and standard arms respectively. Median progression free survival was 42 and 28 weeks, respectively (p = 0.892). The treatments were well tolerated. The incidence of grade III/IV diarrhea was more common in the standard arm, while anaemia was more common in the experimental arm. IHC analysis suggested that the patients with CD44s positive tumours may gain survival benefit from HA-IR. HA-IR is well tolerated and active in ES-SCLC. The effect of HA-IR on CD44s + cancer stem-like cells provide an early hint towards a potential novel target.


Small cell lung cancer CD44 Hyaluronic acid Cancer stem cells 



The authors thank Peter Midolo and Zdenka Prodanivc for their technical support.


The study was supported by a grant from Alchemia Oncology (Project ACO-003).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Medical OncologyMonash Medical CentreClaytonAustralia
  2. 2.Centre for Cancer ResearchHudson Institute of Medical ResearchClaytonAustralia
  3. 3.Monash UniversityClaytonAustralia
  4. 4.The Kinghorn Cancer CentreGarvan Institute of Medical ResearchDarlinghurstAustralia
  5. 5.Department of PathologyMonash Medical CentreClaytonAustralia
  6. 6.Peninsula and Southeast OncologyFrankstonAustralia

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