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Weijun Wang, Alex Ghandi, Leonard Liebes, Stan G. Louie, Florence M. Hofman, Axel H. Schönthal and Thomas C. Chen


Irinotecan (CPT-11), a topoisomerase I inhibitor, is a cytotoxic agent with activity against malignant gliomas and other tumors. After systemic delivery, CPT-11 is converted to its active metabolite, SN-38, which displays significantly higher cytotoxic potency. However, the achievement of therapeutically effective plasma levels of CPT-11 and SN-38 is seriously complicated by variables that affect drug metabolism in the liver. Thus the capacity of CPT-11 to be converted to the active SN38 intratumorally in gliomas was addressed.


For in vitro studies, 2 glioma cell lines, U87 and U251, were tested to determine the cytotoxic effects of CPT-11 and SN-38 in a dose-dependent manner. In vivo studies were performed by implanting U87 intracranially into athymic/nude mice. For a period of 2 weeks, SN-38, CPT-11, or vehicle was administered intratumorally by means of an osmotic minipump. One series of experiments measured the presence of SN-38 or CPT-11 in the tumor and surrounding brain tissues after 2 weeks' exposure to the drug. In a second series of experiments, after 2 weeks' exposure to the drug, the animals were maintained, in the absence of drug, until death. The survival curves were then calculated.


The results show that the animals that had CPT-11 delivered intratumorally by the minipump expressed SN-38 in vivo. Furthermore, both CPT-11 and SN-38 accumulated at higher levels in tumor tissues compared with uninvolved brain. Intratumoral delivery of CPT-11 or SN-38 extended the average survival time of tumor-bearing animals from 22 days to 46 and 65 days, respectively.


These results demonstrate that intratumorally administered CPT-11 can be effectively converted to SN-38 and this method of drug delivery is effective in extending the survival time of animals bearing malignant gliomas.