Polyamine biosynthesis inhibitors combined with systemic hyperthermia in cancer therapy

Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 1990 Jul;19(1):89-96. doi: 10.1016/0360-3016(90)90139-b.


A Phase I clinical trial has been initiated at the University of Arizona Cancer Center which combines escalating oral doses of the polyamine biosynthesis inhibitor alpha-difluoromethylornithine (DFMO), with systemic hyperthermia (approximately 41.5 degrees C) in the treatment of metastatic melanoma. The rationale for the combination of hyperthermia and polyamine biosynthesis inhibitors in the treatment of human cancers includes studies which show that depletion of endogenous polyamines, as a result of treatment with DFMO, sensitizes both rodent and human tumor cells to the cytotoxic effects of hyperthermia. Heat shock induces the first enzyme in polyamine catabolism, spermidine/spermine N1-acetyltransferase (N1-SAT). The consequently acetylated forms of spermidine and spermine are then constitutively oxidized by the enzyme polyamine oxidase (PAO). Both CHO and human A549 lung cancer cells exhibit heat-inducible polyamine acetylation, display potent heat sensitization after polyamine depletion, and ultimately reveal prolonged expression of thermotolerance. Conversely, HeLa cells do not demonstrate heat-inducible polyamine catabolism, are not sensitized to heat with DFMO, and display more rapid kinetics of thermotolerance decay. These laboratory studies suggest that enhancement of the cytotoxic action of hyperthermia by DFMO occurs as a consequence of the inhibition of polyamine catabolism, a heat-inducible process that affords some form of protection to cells undergoing heat stress. Human melanoma cultures demonstrate heat-inducible polyamine catabolism and are sensitized to hyperthermic cytotoxicity by DFMO. To date, 24 systemic hyperthermia treatments have been delivered to nine patients with metastatic melanoma in conjunction with oral DFMO under this Phase I clinical trial.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation
  • Animals
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Cricetinae
  • Cricetulus
  • Eflornithine / pharmacology*
  • Eflornithine / therapeutic use
  • Glutathione / metabolism
  • HeLa Cells / drug effects
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Hyperthermia, Induced*
  • Kinetics
  • Melanoma / drug therapy
  • Melanoma / secondary
  • Melanoma / therapy*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Polyamines / metabolism*
  • Shock
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured / drug effects
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured / metabolism


  • Polyamines
  • Glutathione
  • Eflornithine