Twenty-seven patients with refractory leukemia were treated with 1-β-d-arabinofuranosylcytosine (ara-C), 0.3 to 3.0 g/m2 as i.v. infusions over 1, 2, 4, or 24 h. The pharmacokinetics of ara-C in plasma and its 5′-triphosphate (ara-CTP) in leukemic cells from peripheral blood were studied after a single infusion of 3 g/m2 over 2 h in 13 patients. Accumulation of ara-CTP in leukemic cells remained linear until 1 to 2 h after the infusion. At the time when the rate of ara-CTP accumulation deviated from linearity, the plasma concentration of ara-C was 5- to 20-fold lower [8.1 ± 4.4 (SD) µm] than the steady-state level during the infusion. Plasma ara-C and cellular ara-CTP pharmacokinetics were studied after two serial infusions in 14 additional patients. Varying the duration of infusion of an ara-C dose between 1, 2, and 4 h (corresponding to infusion rates of 3000, 1500, and 750 mg/m2/h) did not substantially change the rate of ara-CTP accumulation by leukemic cells. The peak ara-CTP concentration and the area under the concentration times time curve (AUC) of ara-CTP in leukemic cells increased with prolongation of the infusion. Although steady-state concentration of ara-C and AUC of ara-C in plasma were proportionally reduced by 1.0 or 0.5 g/m2 infusion over 2 h, ara-CTP accumulation rate and AUC in leukemic cells did not change compared with administration of 3 g/m2 over 2 h. However, when the infusion rate was further reduced to 0.4 or 0.3 g/m2 over 2 h, resulting in steady-state plasma ara-C concentrations of less than 7 µm, the accumulation rate of ara-CTP was substantially reduced as was the ara-CTP intracellular AUC. The cellular elimination rate of ara-CTP remained constant under all infusion conditions. These findings support the conclusion that high-dose ara-C therapy, as currently administered, results in plasma ara-C concentrations that saturate the accumulation of ara-CTP by circulating leukemic cells. We recommend that intermediate dose rates, 200 to 250 mg/m2/h, be evaluated in future studies as an alternative to the substantially higher ara-C dose rates currently in use.


Supported by grants CA 28153 and CA 32839 from the National Cancer Institute, and by the Cancer Society in Stockholm, Sweden.

This content is only available via PDF.