Plasma and cerebrospinal fluid pharmacokinetics of rebeccamycin (NSC 655649) in nonhuman primates

Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 2004 Aug;54(2):127-30. doi: 10.1007/s00280-004-0787-0. Epub 2004 May 18.


Purpose: The rebeccamycins, indolocarbazole topoisomerase I poisons originally discovered in actinomycetes, have shown activity in vitro against a range of adult and pediatric tumors. The derivative NSC 655649 (diethylaminoethyl analog of rebeccamycin, or DEAE rebeccamycin) is currently undergoing early-phase human studies and has shown some signs of antitumor activity. We studied the plasma and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) pharmacokinetics of NSC 655649 after systemic administration in a nonhuman primate model that is predictive of anticancer drug behavior in humans.

Design: A dose of 400 mg/m2 was infused over 1 h to three rhesus monkeys. Serial blood and CSF samples were collected. Rebeccamycin concentrations were measured by high-pressure liquid chromatography. Pharmacokinetic analysis was performed using compartmental and noncompartmental methods.

Results: A two-compartment or three-compartment model described rebeccamycin pharmacokinetics in plasma adequately. In two animals, the three-compartment model provided a better fit, and in one animal, the two-compartment model was better. The terminal half-life was 730+/-410 min, the AUC was 3130+/-425 microM min, and the clearance was 190+/-25 ml/min/m2. Rebeccamycin was below the limit of quantitation in all CSF samples. The animals had some nausea and agitation during and shortly after the infusion that responded to treatment with prochlorperazine or diazepam. Otherwise, rebeccamycin was well tolerated with minimal toxicity.

Conclusion: Rebeccamycin penetrates poorly into the CSF following an intravenous infusion. Therefore, systemically administered rebeccamycin is unlikely to be an important agent for the treatment of leptomeningeal tumors. Because the drug is associated with local irritation at injection sites, it is not an ideal candidate for development as an intrathecal agent. However, the role of rebeccamycin in the treatment of parenchymal brain tumors should be determined in clinical trials.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Area Under Curve
  • Blood-Brain Barrier
  • Carbazoles / administration & dosage
  • Carbazoles / pharmacokinetics*
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid / chemistry
  • Indoles / administration & dosage
  • Indoles / pharmacokinetics*
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Meningeal Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Models, Theoretical*


  • Carbazoles
  • Indoles
  • rebeccamycin