Pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamic effects of 5-fluorouracil given as a one-hour intravenous infusion

J. L. Grem, M. Quinn, A. S. Ismail, C. H. Takimoto, R. Lush, D. J. Liewehr, S. M. Steinberg, F. M. Balis, A. P. Chen, B. P. Monahan, N. Harold, W. Corse, J. Pang, R. F. Murphy, C. J. Allegra, J. M. Hamilton

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14 Scopus citations


Purpose: Clinical toxicity associated with 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) is related to the area under the plasma concentration-time curve (AUC). Recently, short-term infusions of 5-FU given over 30 or 60 min have been substituted for conventional "bolus" 5-FU given over 3-5 min in randomized clinical trials, but there are only limited pharmacokinetic data for these altered infusion durations. We therefore wished to determine the pharmacokinetics and toxicity associated with 5-FU given as a 1-h intravenous (i.v.) infusion. Methods: A group of 22 adults with advanced gastro-intestinal tract cancers and no prior systemic chemotherapy for advanced disease received interferon α-2a (5 MU/m2 s.c., days 1-7), leucovorin (500 mg/m2 i.v. over 30 min, days 2-6) and 5-FU (370 mg/m2 i.v. over 1 h, days 2-6). The doses of 5-FU and interferon-α were adjusted according to individual tolerance. The pharmacokinetics and clinical toxicity were retrospectively compared with patients receiving the same regimen under the same treatment guidelines except that 5-FU was given over 5 min. Results: The regimen was well tolerated, and 41% of the patients tolerated 5-FU dose escalations to 425-560 mg/m2 per day. Grade 3 or worse diarrhea and fatigue ultimately occurred in 14% of the patients each. Granulocytopenia, mucositis, and diarrhea appeared to be appreciably milder in the present trial compared with our prior phase II experience in colorectal cancer. The peak 5-FU plasma levels and AUC with 370 mg/m2 5-FU given over 1 h were 7.3-fold and 2.4-fold lower than previously measured in 31 patients who received 5-FU over 5 min. Conclusion: Increasing the length of 5-FU infusion to 1 h seemed to substantially reduce the clinical toxicity with this modulated 5-FU regimen, likely due to markedly lower peak 5-FU plasma levels and AUC. Changes in the duration of a short infusion of 5-FU clearly affects the clinical toxicity, but raises the concern of a potentially adverse impact on its antitumor activity. These results suggest the importance of including precise guidelines concerning the time over which 5-FU is given in clinical trials. Having a specified duration of 5-FU infusion is also important if 5-FU dose escalation is considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-125
Number of pages9
JournalCancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • 5-Fluorouracil
  • Biochemical modulation
  • Infusion duration
  • Pharmacology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Cancer Research
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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