Ifosfamide/mesna. A review of its antineoplastic activity, pharmacokinetic properties and therapeutic efficacy in cancer

Drugs. 1991 Sep;42(3):428-67. doi: 10.2165/00003495-199142030-00006.


Ifosfamide is an oxazaphosphorine alkylating agent with a broad spectrum of antineoplastic activity. It is a prodrug metabolised in the liver by cytochrome P450 mixed-function oxidase enzymes to isofosforamide mustard, the active alkylating compound. Mesna, a uroprotective thiol agent, is routinely administered concomitantly with ifosfamide, and has almost eliminated ifosfamide-induced haemorrhagic cystitis and has reduced nephron toxicity. Therapeutic studies, mostly noncomparative in nature, have demonstrated the efficacy of ifosfamide/mesna alone, or more commonly as a component of combination regimens, in a variety of cancers. In patients with relapsed or refractory disseminated nonseminomatous testicular cancer, a salvage regimen of ifosfamide/mesna, cisplatin and either etoposide or vinblastine produced complete response in approximately one-quarter of patients. As a component of both induction and salvage chemotherapeutic regimens, ifosfamide/mesna has produced favourable response rates in small cell lung cancer, paediatric solid tumours, non-Hodgkin's and Hodgkin's lymphoma, and ovarian cancer. Induction therapy with ifosfamide/mesna-containing chemotherapeutic regimens has been encouraging in non-small cell lung cancer, adult soft-tissue sarcomas, and as neoadjuvant therapy in advanced cervical cancer. As salvage therapy, ifosfamide/mesna-containing combinations have a palliative role in advanced breast cancer and advanced cervical cancer. Ifosfamide/mesna can elicit responses in patients refractory to numerous other antineoplastic drugs, including cyclophosphamide. With administration of concomitant mesna to protect against ifosfamide-induced urotoxicity, the principal dose-limiting toxicity of ifosfamide is myelosuppression; leucopenia is generally more severe than thrombocytopenia. Reversible CNS adverse effects ranging from mild somnolence and confusion to severe encephalopathy and coma can occur in approximately 10 to 20% of patients after intravenous infusion, and the incidence of neurotoxicity may be increased to 50% after oral administration because of differences in the preferential route of metabolism between the 2 routes of administration. Other adverse effects of ifosfamide include nephrotoxicity, alopecia, and nausea/vomiting. In general, intravenously administered mesna is associated with a low incidence of adverse effects; however, gastrointestinal disturbances are common following oral administration. Thus, ifosfamide/mesna is an important and worthwhile addition to the currently available range of chemotherapeutic agents. It has a broad spectrum of antineoplastic activity and causes less marked myelosuppression than many other cytotoxic agents. At present, the role of ifosfamide/mesna in refractory germ cell testicular cancer is clearly defined; however, its overall place in the treatment of other forms of cancer awaits delineation in future well-controlled comparative studies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Drug Evaluation
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ifosfamide / administration & dosage*
  • Ifosfamide / pharmacokinetics
  • Ifosfamide / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Mesna / administration & dosage*
  • Mesna / pharmacology
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*


  • Mesna
  • Ifosfamide