Individual variation in the activation and inactivation of metabolic pathways of cyclophosphamide

J Natl Cancer Inst. 1992 Nov 18;84(22):1744-8. doi: 10.1093/jnci/84.22.1744.


Background: Carboxyphosphamide is an inactive metabolite of cyclophosphamide, which is a widely used antineoplastic drug. Deficiencies in the production of this metabolite have been reported. Such deficiencies would have important consequences for therapeutic and toxic effects of oxazaphosphorines like cyclophosphamide.

Purpose: This study further investigates the variability in cyclophosphamide metabolism and carboxyphosphamide recovery in urine.

Methods: The 24-hour urinary metabolic profile of cyclophosphamide was investigated in 17 Turkish patients receiving doses of 100-1080 mg orally or by short intravenous infusion. Urine samples were assayed quantitatively for cyclophosphamide and its principal metabolites (phosphoramide mustard, 4-ketocyclophosphamide, carboxyphosphamide, and dechloroethylcyclophosphamide) with combined thin-layer chromatography-photography-densitometry. The amount of each metabolite excreted in 24 hours was expressed as a percentage of the dose.

Results: Recovery of drug and metabolites varied greatly among individuals (range, 0.01%-13.56% of dose). In particular, the amount of carboxyphosphamide varied over a thousandfold range and was undetectable in urine from four patients. The patients were classified by phenotype as demonstrating low or high carboxylation. Those with low carboxylation excreted less than 0.2% of the cyclophosphamide dose as carboxyphosphamide, while those with high carboxylation excreted 0.8%-13.6% (median, 1.81%). No association was observed between carboxylation phenotype and patient age, sex, disease, or concomitant therapy, although the three lifetime nonsmokers all showed poor carboxylation. No correlation was observed between the percent of dose excreted as any of the other metabolites and that excreted as carboxyphosphamide. There was a statistically significant inverse correlation between the combined recovery of carboxyphosphamide and phosphoramide mustard and the dose of prednisolone administered.

Conclusions: These data confirm an earlier observation of a phenotypic deficiency of carboxyphosphamide excretion in British patients treated with cyclophosphamide. This deficiency may arise from a polymorphism in the enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase. Carboxylation phenotype may have important implications for both the therapeutic effect and toxicity of cyclophosphamide.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biotransformation
  • Cyclophosphamide / analogs & derivatives
  • Cyclophosphamide / metabolism*
  • Cyclophosphamide / urine
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


  • Cyclophosphamide