Effective conversion of irinotecan to SN-38 after intratumoral drug delivery to an intracranial murine glioma model in vivo. Laboratory investigation

J Neurosurg. 2011 Mar;114(3):689-94. doi: 10.3171/2010.2.JNS09719. Epub 2010 Apr 23.


Object: Irinotecan (CPT-11), a topoisomerase I inhibitor, is a cytotoxic agent with activity against malignant gliomas and other tumors. After systemic delivery, CPT-11 is converted to its active metabolite, SN-38, which displays significantly higher cytotoxic potency. However, the achievement of therapeutically effective plasma levels of CPT-11 and SN-38 is seriously complicated by variables that affect drug metabolism in the liver. Thus the capacity of CPT-11 to be converted to the active SN38 intratumorally in gliomas was addressed.

Methods: For in vitro studies, 2 glioma cell lines, U87 and U251, were tested to determine the cytotoxic effects of CPT-11 and SN-38 in a dose-dependent manner. In vivo studies were performed by implanting U87 intracranially into athymic/nude mice. For a period of 2 weeks, SN-38, CPT-11, or vehicle was administered intratumorally by means of an osmotic minipump. One series of experiments measured the presence of SN-38 or CPT-11 in the tumor and surrounding brain tissues after 2 weeks' exposure to the drug. In a second series of experiments, after 2 weeks' exposure to the drug, the animals were maintained, in the absence of drug, until death. The survival curves were then calculated.

Results: The results show that the animals that had CPT-11 delivered intratumorally by the minipump expressed SN-38 in vivo. Furthermore, both CPT-11 and SN-38 accumulated at higher levels in tumor tissues compared with uninvolved brain. Intratumoral delivery of CPT-11 or SN-38 extended the average survival time of tumor-bearing animals from 22 days to 46 and 65 days, respectively.

Conclusions: These results demonstrate that intratumorally administered CPT-11 can be effectively converted to SN-38 and this method of drug delivery is effective in extending the survival time of animals bearing malignant gliomas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacokinetics*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Brain Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Camptothecin / analogs & derivatives*
  • Camptothecin / metabolism
  • Camptothecin / pharmacokinetics
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Delivery Systems
  • Drug Implants
  • Glioma / drug therapy*
  • Glioma / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Irinotecan
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Survival Analysis
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Drug Implants
  • Irinotecan
  • Camptothecin