Polymeric micelles are ideally suited to exploit the EPR effect, and they have been used for the delivery of a range of anticancer drugs in preclinical and clinical studies. NK012 is an SN-38-loaded polymeric micelle constructed in an aqueous milieu by the self-assembly of an amphiphilic block copolymer, PEG-PGlu(SN-38). The antitumor activity was evaluated in several orthotopic tumor models including glioma, renal cancer, stomach cancer, and pancreatic cancer. Two independent phase I clinical trials were conducted in Japan and the USA. In the preclinical studies, it was demonstrated that NK012 exerted significantly more potent antitumor activity with no intestinal toxicity against various orthotopic human tumor xenografts than CPT-11. In clinical trials, predominant toxicity was neutropenia. Non-hematologic toxicity, especially diarrhea, was mostly Grade 1 or 2 during study treatments. Total 8 partial responses were obtained. According to data of preclinical studies, NK012 showing enhanced distribution with prolonged SN-38 release may be ideal for cancer treatment because the antitumor activity of SN-38 is time dependent. Clinical studies showed that NK012 was well tolerated and had antitumor activity including partial responses and several occurrences of prolonged stable disease across a variety of advanced refractory cancers. Phase II studies are ongoing in patients with colorectal cancer in Japan and in patients with triple negative breast cancer and small cell lung cancer in the USA.
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