Phase I clinical trial of alitretinoin and tamoxifen in breast cancer patients: Toxicity, pharmacokinetic, and biomarker evaluations

Julia A. Lawrence, Peter C. Adamson, Rafael Caruso, Catherine Chow, David Kleiner, Robert F. Murphy, David J. Venzon, Margaret Shovlin, Marianne Noone, Maria Merino, Kenneth H. Cowan, Muriel Kaiser, Joyce O'Shaughnessy, Jo Anne Zujewski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Purpose: To determine the overall and dose-limiting toxicities (DLTs) of alitretinoin (9-cis-retinoic acid) in combination with tamoxifen and the pharmacokinetics of alitretinoin alone and when combined with tamoxifen in patients with metastatic breast cancer. The effect of tamoxifen and alitretinoin on MIB-1, a marker of proliferation, in unaffected breast tissue was explored. Patients and Methods: Eligible patients had metastatic breast cancer. Previous tamoxifen therapy was allowed. Planned dose levels for alitretinoin ranged from 50 to 140 mg/m2/d with 20 mg/d tamoxifen in all patients after 4 weeks of alitretinoin as a single agent. Plasma concentrations of alitretinoin and retinol were measured at baseline and after 1, 2, and 3 months. Breast core biopsies were obtained at baseline and after 2 months of therapy. Results: Twelve patients with metastatic breast cancer received a total of 86 cycles of therapy. At 90 mg/m2/d, three of five patients experienced a DLT: grade 3 headache, grade 3 hypercalcemia, and grade 3 noncardiogenic pulmonary edema. At 70 mg/m2/d, one of six patients experienced a DLT (headache), and this level was considered the maximal tolerated dose in this study. Three toxicities occurred that had not been reported previously with alitretinoin: an asymptomatic delay in dark adaptation, a marked decrease in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and the occurrence of enthesopathy. Two of the nine assessable patients had a durable clinical response: one partial response and stable disease for 18 months and one complete response in continuous remission for 48+ months. Both responding patients were estrogen receptor-positive and had previous tamoxifen therapy. There was a high degree of interpatient variability of plasma alitretinoin concentrations, although a significant decline in alitretinoin plasma levels over time was observed. MIB-1 scores declined in four of the eight paired breast specimens obtained. Conclusion: The combination of tamoxifen and alitretinoin is well tolerated and has antitumor activity in metastatic breast cancer. The recommended phase II dose is 70 mg/m2/d with 20 mg/d tamoxifen.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2754-2763
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 15 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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