Author(s): Dragovich T, Gordon M, Mendelson D, Modiano M, Wong L
PURPOSE: Imexon, a pro-oxidant small molecule, has antitumor activity in preclinical models. The drug induces apoptosis through accumulation of reactive oxygen species. The purpose of this trial was to define the maximum-tolerated dose (MTD), toxicities, pharmacokinetics, and pharmacodynamics of imexon in patients with advanced cancers. PATIENTS AND METHODS: Forty-nine patients with metastatic cancer received intravenous imexon over 30 to 45 minutes for 5 consecutive days (one course) every other week (days 1 through 5 and 15 through 19) monthly. Doses were initially escalated using an accelerated trial design and then a modified Fibonacci method. Plasma imexon levels and six different thiols were measured by high-performance liquid chromatography assays. RESULTS: There were 13 dose levels evaluated, from 20 mg/m2/d to 1,000 mg/m2/d. The MTD recommended for phase II studies was 875 mg/m2/d for 5 days every 2 weeks (n = 9 patients). The two dose-limiting toxicities at 1,000 mg/m2/d involved grade 3 abdominal pain and fatigue and grade 4 neutropenia, which occurred in one patient each. Other common toxicities included nausea and vomiting (58%) and constipation (63%); both were managed well with prophylactic medications. One partial response was obtained in a heavily pretreated patient with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Pharmacokinetic studies showed dose-independent clearance, with a 95-minute mean half-life. Plasma thiol studies showed a dose- and area under the curve-dependent decrease in cystine levels 8 hours after dosing at 750 mg/m2/d. CONCLUSION: The phase II recommended dose of imexon is 875 mg/m2/d for 5 days every other week. A decrease in plasma thiols did correlate with imexon exposure.