The dose of interleukin 2 (IL-2) which can be administered to cancer patients is limited largely by a capillary leak syndrome. Pentoxifylline (PTX) is a methylxanthine which reduces IL-2 toxicity in animals. Ciprofloxacin (Cipro) modifies the metabolism of methylxanthines and, when coadministered with PTX, increases levels of PTX and certain of its metabolites. We conducted a phase Ib trial in patients receiving IL-2 and lymphokine-activated killer cell (LAK) cell therapy for metastatic renal cell carcinoma to identify the maximum tolerated dose of PTX which could be coadministered with Cipro in this setting. Eighteen patients received IL-2 (Roche) by continuous infusion at 6 × 106 units/m2/day on days 1–5 and underwent leukapheresis on days 7–9. LAK cells were infused on days 12–14. IL-2 was administered at 2 × 106 units/m2/day on days 10–20. Cohorts of patients received PTX at 2.5 (n = 3), 3.1 (n = 6), 3.9 (n = 6), and 4.9 (n = 3) mg/kg by 30 min i.v. infusion every 4 h on days 0–5 and 10–20 and Cipro (500 mg p.o. every 12 h) on days 1–5 and 10–20. Toxicity was compared with that observed in 33 historical control patients who received 37 cycles of an identical regimen of IL-2/LAK without PTX/Cipro.

PTX at 2.5–3.9 mg/kg and Cipro were well tolerated. The maximum tolerated dose of PTX was 3.9 mg/kg. Dose-limiting emesis (n = 1) and atrial fibrillation (n = 2) occurred at 4.9 mg/kg and were reversible. Two complete, one partial and one minor, responses were observed. Patients treated with 3.9 mg/kg PTX received 95.0% of the planned dose of IL-2 as compared to 72.8% in the control patients (P < 0.025), primarily due to a lower incidence of azotemia and metabolic acidosis in PTX/Cipro recipients than had been seen in the historical control patients. The results of this study demonstrate that PTX/Cipro can be administered to patients receiving IL-2/LAK without apparent loss of therapeutic efficacy. Moreover, PTX/Cipro recipients exhibited less toxicity than historical controls. Therefore, treatment with PTX/Cipro may allow delivery of higher doses of IL-2, which might induce more responses in IL-2-responsive tumors and regression of tumors unresponsive to conventional doses of IL-2.


This manuscript was supported in part by grants T32-CA09515 and F32 CA09328 awarded by the National Cancer Institute, the American Society of Clinical Oncology Young Investigator Award Program, and the Jenny Zoline Foundation.

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