Preclinical and phase I clinical studies with the nonclassical antifolate thymidylate synthase inhibitor nolatrexed dihydrochloride given by prolonged administration in patients with solid tumors

J Clin Oncol. 1998 Mar;16(3):1131-41. doi: 10.1200/JCO.1998.16.3.1131.


Purpose: A phase I, multicenter trial of the thymidylate synthase (TS) inhibitor THYMITAQ (nolatrexed dihydrochloride; Agouron Pharmaceuticals, Inc, San Diego, CA) given by 5-day continuous infusion was performed to establish the maximum-tolerated dose (MTD) and to investigate pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, and antitumor effects.

Methods: In vitro and in vivo preclinical studies demonstrated increased activity with prolonged nolatrexed exposure. In 32 patients, nolatrexed was given as a 5-day infusion at 96 to 1,040 mg/m2/d for 5 days. Pharmacokinetics were determined from high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) analyses of plasma and urine. In addition to studying toxicity, plasma deoxyuridine (UdR) elevations were measured as a marker of TS inhibition.

Results: The MTD was 904 mg/m2/d for 5 days and the recommended phase II dose is 800 mg/m2/d for 5 days. The dose-limiting toxicity was neutropenia with clinically significant thrombocytopenia and mucositis. These antiproliferative toxicities of nolatrexed were predictable and reversible. A partial response that lasted 3 months occurred in a patient with metastatic colorectal cancer. Pharmacokinetics were nonlinear, with the median plasma clearance (CI) decreasing from 151 mL/min/m2 (range, 124 to 211) at 96 mg/m2/d for 5 days to 49 mL/min/m2 (range, 30 to 84) at 768 mg/ m2/d for 5 days. The half-life (t1/2) was 173 minutes (range, 43 to 784) and 18% (range, 9% to 35%) of the dose was excreted unchanged in the urine. Plasma UdR increased, but returned to pretreatment levels after the end of infusion. Hematologic toxicity was significantly related to nolatrexed plasma concentrations and dose.

Conclusion: Nolatrexed can be safely administered to patients at a dose of 800 mg/m2/d over 5 days by continuous intravenous infusion and this schedule is associated with antitumor effects. The phase II evaluation of nolatrexed is ongoing.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Clinical Trial, Phase I
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / administration & dosage
  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / pharmacokinetics
  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / pharmacology*
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Female
  • Folic Acid Antagonists / administration & dosage
  • Folic Acid Antagonists / pharmacokinetics
  • Folic Acid Antagonists / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Quinazolines / administration & dosage
  • Quinazolines / pharmacokinetics
  • Quinazolines / pharmacology*
  • Thymidylate Synthase / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic
  • Folic Acid Antagonists
  • Quinazolines
  • Thymidylate Synthase
  • nolatrexed