Improved treatment of a brain-tumor model

Part 2: Sequential therapy with BCNU and 5-fluorouracil

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  • 1 Department of Neurological Surgery, University of California, San Francisco, California
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✓ A combination chemotherapy regimen for brain tumors was developed, based on investigations of the survival of animals harboring the intracerebral 9L rat brain-tumor model and on analyses of their clonogenic tumor cells. Fischer 344 rats harboring 9L brain tumors were treated with 2-day courses of 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), in order to expose all cycling tumor cells to the drug during DNA synthesis and achieve maximum anti-tumor activity for this cell-cycle-specific anti-metabolite. Although a 74% cell kill was obtained for a total dose of 45 mg/kg or greater, animal life span was not increased over that of untreated tumor-bearing controls. However, when 5-FU (48 to 96 mg/kg total dose over 2 days) was administered after a single LD10 dose of BCNU (13.3 mg/kg), additive cell kill was suggested. In three large series, long-term animal survivors and occasional tumor cures were observed with this drug combination, a result never observed following BCNU alone. Schedule dependency was not apparent. A previously published protocol for treating recurrent malignant gliomas with sequential courses of BCNU and 5-FU was partially planned based upon these initial observations. Anti-tumor activity with the combination of drugs was superior to therapy with BCNU alone. Both animal and human studies confirm that, contrary to presently accepted oncological tenets, a chemotherapeutic agent that kills significant numbers of tumor cells but is clinically ineffective when given alone might, nevertheless, be useful in combination therapy regimens.

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