Amifostine: An Update on its Clinical Status as a Cytoprotectant in Patients with Cancer Receiving Chemotherapy or Radiotherapy and its Potential Therapeutic Application in Myelodysplastic Syndrome

Culy, C.R.; Spencer, C.M.
March 2001
Drugs;Mar2001, Vol. 61 Issue 5, p641
Academic Journal
Amifostine (WR-2721) is a cytoprotective agent that protects a broad range of normal tissues from the toxic effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy without attenuating tumour response. This selective protection is due to the greater conversion and uptake of the active metabolite, WR-1065, in normal versus neoplastic tissues. In a pivotal phase III trial, 242 patients with advanced ovarian cancer were randomised to receive treatment with cisplatin 100 mg/m and cyclophosphamide 1000 mg/m every 3 weeks with or without pretreatment with intravenous amifostine 910 mg/m. Over 6 cycles of therapy, amifostine significantly reduced haematological, renal and neurological toxicities; treatment delays, treatment discontinuation and days in hospital related to these adverse events were also significantly reduced in patients receiving amifostine versus patients receiving chemotherapy alone. In another randomised phase III trial in 303 patients with head and neck cancer undergoing irradiation therapy (total dose 50 to 70Gy), pretreatment with intravenous amifostine 200 mg/m significantly reduced the incidence of acute and late grade ≥2 xerostomia. However, mucositis was not significantly reduced in amifostine recipients compared with patients receiving radiotherapy alone, although this has been shown in smaller randomised trials. Amifostine (340 mg/m) also provided significant protection against pneumonitis and oesophagitis in patients with lung cancer receiving thoracic irradiation in a preliminary report from a phase III trial (n = 144). Other studies have demonstrated protective effects of amifostine in other tumour types and other chemotherapy, radiation and radiochemotherapy regimens; however, evidence is still limited in these indications. No evidence of tumour protection by amifostine has been demonstrated in any clinical trials. Amifostine has also been shown to stimulate haematopoietic stem cells and has been investigated as a therapy for patients with myelodysplastic syndrome in number of small preliminary studies. At the recommended dose and schedule, amifostine is generally well tolerated. Adverse effects are usually reversible and manageable and those most frequently experienced include nausea and vomiting, transient hypotension and somnolence and sneezing. Conclusion: The results of phase III trials have confirmed the safety and efficacy of amifostine as a cytoprotectant to ameliorate cisplatin-induced cumulative renal toxicity, for which it is the only agent proven to be effective, and neutropenia in patients with advanced ovarian cancer, and to reduce xerostomia in patients with head and neck cancer receiving irradiation therapy. Depending on the outcome of numerous ongoing clinical trials, amifostine may eventually find broader clinical applications, both as a cytoprotectant and as a potential therapy in myelodysplastic syndrome.



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