Phase I study of the plant protein ricin

Cancer Res. 1984 Feb;44(2):862-5.


A Phase I study was carried out with ricin, a plant toxin acting by inhibiting protein synthesis, on 54 cancer patients with advanced disease. Ricin was given as i.v. bolus injections every two weeks at dose levels ranging from 4.5 to 23 micrograms/sq m of estimated body surface area. Ricin was well tolerated at doses up to 18 to 20 micrograms/sq m. At these levels and at higher levels, flu-like symptoms with fatigue and muscular pain appeared and, in some patients, nausea and vomiting occurred also. No myelo-suppression was seen. Antibodies to ricin were detected in serum after two to three ricin injections. Ricin was eliminated from blood according to first order kinetics. At each dose level, the plasma concentrations, as well as the side effects, showed only minor differences between patients. The highest dose given, 23 micrograms/sq m, gave plasma concentrations twice those found previously to be therapeutically effective in tumor-bearing mice. Of 38 evaluable patients, one patient with lymphoma had a partial response. Stable disease was observed in four patients with renal cancers, in two with soft tissue sarcomas, and in one patient each with mesothelioma, thyroid, and rectal cancer. A dose of 23 micrograms/sq m is recommended for Phase II trials of ricin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abrin / therapeutic use
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antibody Formation
  • Drug Evaluation
  • Female
  • Half-Life
  • Humans
  • Lymphoma / drug therapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Ricin / adverse effects
  • Ricin / blood
  • Ricin / therapeutic use*


  • Abrin
  • Ricin