Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BACKGROUND: The main toxicity of irinotecan in advanced colorectal cancer (CRC) is delayed diarrhoea. Intestinal SN-38, released by deconjugation of the parent glucuronide excreted into the bile or produced in situ by intestinal carboxylesterase, is toxic to the intestinal epithelium. The canalicular transport of irinotecan and SN-38G is mediated by ABCC2 (MRP2) and ABCB1 (MDR1) which are both inhibited by ciclosporin. We tested whether irinotecan and ciclosporin was non-inferior for anti-cancer efficacy and superior for toxicity compared with single-agent irinotecan. METHODS: Six hundred and seventy-two patients with advanced, measurable CRC following prior fluoropyrimidine-containing chemotherapy were randomised to either irinotecan 3-weekly 350 mg/m(2) (or 300 mg/m(2) if age >70 or performance status (PS)=2) or 3-weekly irinotecan at 140 mg/m(2) (120 mg/m(2) if age >70 or PS=2) with ciclosporin 3mg/kg t.d.s. for three days by mouth starting on the morning before irinotecan. The primary end-point was the proportion of patients alive and progression-free at 12 weeks. The key secondary end-point was the incidence of grade ≥3 diarrhoea within 12 weeks of randomisation. RESULTS: The proportion of patients progression-free at 12 weeks with irinotecan was 53.4% compared to 47.2% with irinotecan plus ciclosporin (difference=-6.3%, 95% confidence interval (CI) [-13.8%, 1.3%]). Since the lower limit of the 95% CI crossed the pre-specified non-inferiority margin of -10.6%, non-inferiority of irinotecan plus ciclosporin compared to irinotecan alone was not statistically demonstrated. 15.0% patients developed severe diarrhoea on irinotecan compared to 13.8% on irinotecan plus ciclosporin, a non-significant difference. INTERPRETATION: The pharmacokinetic biomodulation of irinotecan using oral ciclosporin does not improve the therapeutic index of irinotecan in advanced CRC. FUNDING: The trial was funded by Cancer Research UK and supported by Amgen Pharma.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur J Cancer

Publication Date





3507 - 3516


Colorectal, PICCOLO, Phase III, ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1, Administration, Oral, Aged, Antibodies, Monoclonal, Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols, Biological Availability, Camptothecin, Colorectal Neoplasms, Cyclosporine, Diarrhea, Disease-Free Survival, Drug Administration Schedule, Female, Humans, Irinotecan, Kaplan-Meier Estimate, Male, Middle Aged, Multidrug Resistance-Associated Proteins, Odds Ratio, Time Factors, Treatment Outcome, United Kingdom