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CAMPTOSAR®Clinical Pharmacology (irinotecan HCl)


12.1 Mechanism of Action

Irinotecan is a derivative of camptothecin. Camptothecins interact specifically with the enzyme topoisomerase I, which relieves torsional strain in DNA by inducing reversible single-strand breaks. Irinotecan and its active metabolite SN-38 bind to the topoisomerase I-DNA complex and prevent religation of these single-strand breaks. Current research suggests that the cytotoxicity of irinotecan is due to double-strand DNA damage produced during DNA synthesis when replication enzymes interact with the ternary complex formed by topoisomerase I, DNA, and either irinotecan or SN-38. Mammalian cells cannot efficiently repair these double-strand breaks.

12.2 Pharmacodynamics

Irinotecan serves as a water-soluble precursor of the lipophilic metabolite SN-38. SN-38 is formed from irinotecan by carboxylesterase-mediated cleavage of the carbamate bond between the camptothecin moiety and the dipiperidino side chain. SN-38 is approximately 1000 times as potent as irinotecan as an inhibitor of topoisomerase I purified from human and rodent tumor cell lines. In vitro cytotoxicity assays show that the potency of SN-38 relative to irinotecan varies from 2- to 2000-fold; however, the plasma area under the concentration versus time curve (AUC) values for SN-38 are 2% to 8% of irinotecan and SN-38 is 95% bound to plasma proteins compared to approximately 50% bound to plasma proteins for irinotecan [see Clinical Pharmacology (12.3)]. The precise contribution of SN-38 to the activity of CAMPTOSAR is thus unknown. Both irinotecan and SN-38 exist in an active lactone form and an inactive hydroxy acid anion form. A pH-dependent equilibrium exists between the two forms such that an acid pH promotes the formation of the lactone, while a more basic pH favors the hydroxy acid anion form.

Administration of irinotecan has resulted in antitumor activity in mice bearing cancers of rodent origin and in human carcinoma xenografts of various histological types.

12.3 Pharmacokinetics

After intravenous infusion of irinotecan in humans, irinotecan plasma concentrations decline in a multiexponential manner, with a mean terminal elimination half-life of about 6 to 12 hours. The mean terminal elimination half-life of the active metabolite SN-38 is about 10 to 20 hours. The half-lives of the lactone (active) forms of irinotecan and SN-38 are similar to those of total irinotecan and SN-38, as the lactone and hydroxy acid forms are in equilibrium.

Over the recommended dose range of 50 to 350 mg/m2, the AUC of irinotecan increases linearly with dose; the AUC of SN-38 increases less than proportionally with dose. Maximum concentrations of the active metabolite SN-38 are generally seen within 1 hour following the end of a 90-minute infusion of irinotecan. Pharmacokinetic parameters for irinotecan and SN-38 following a 90-minute infusion of irinotecan at dose levels of 125 and 340 mg/m2 determined in two clinical studies in patients with solid tumors are summarized in Table 9:

Table 9. Summary of Mean (±Standard Deviation) Irinotecan and SN-38 Pharmacokinetic Parameters in Patients with Solid Tumors
Cmax - Maximum plasma concentration
AUC0–24 - Area under the plasma concentration-time curve from time
0 to 24 hours after the end of the 90-minute infusion
t1/2 - Terminal elimination half-life
Vz - Volume of distribution of terminal elimination phase
CL - Total systemic clearance
Plasma specimens collected for 24 hours following the end of the 90-minute infusion.
Plasma specimens collected for 48 hours following the end of the 90-minute infusion. Because of the longer collection period, these values provide a more accurate reflection of the terminal elimination half-lives of irinotecan and SN-38.


Irinotecan exhibits moderate plasma protein binding (30% to 68% bound). SN-38 is highly bound to human plasma proteins (approximately 95% bound). The plasma protein to which irinotecan and SN-38 predominantly binds is albumin.


Irinotecan is subject to extensive metabolic conversion by various enzyme systems, including esterases to form the active metabolite SN-38, and UGT1A1 mediating glucuronidation of SN-38 to form the inactive glucuronide metabolite SN-38G. Irinotecan can also undergo CYP3A4-mediated oxidative metabolism to several inactive oxidation products, one of which can be hydrolyzed by carboxylesterase to release SN-38. In vitro studies indicate that irinotecan, SN-38 and another metabolite aminopentane carboxylic acid (APC), do not inhibit cytochrome P-450 isozymes. UGT1A1 activity is reduced in individuals with genetic polymorphisms that lead to reduced enzyme activity such as the UGT1A1*28 polymorphism. Approximately 10% of the North American population is homozygous for the UGT1A1*28 allele (also referred to as UGT1A1 7/7 genotype). In a prospective study, in which irinotecan was administered as a single-agent (350 mg/m2) on a once-every-3-week schedule, patients with the UGT1A1 7/7 genotype had a higher exposure to SN-38 than patients with the wild-type UGT1A1 allele (UGT1A1 6/6 genotype) [see Warnings and Precautions (5.3) and Dosage and Administration (2.3)]. SN-38 glucuronide had 1/50 to 1/100 the activity of SN-38 in cytotoxicity assays using two cell lines in vitro.


The disposition of irinotecan has not been fully elucidated in humans. The urinary excretion of irinotecan is 11% to 20%; SN-38, <1%; and SN-38 glucuronide, 3%. The cumulative biliary and urinary excretion of irinotecan and its metabolites (SN-38 and SN-38 glucuronide) over a period of 48 hours following administration of irinotecan in two patients ranged from approximately 25% (100 mg/m2) to 50% (300 mg/m2).

Effect of Age

The pharmacokinetics of irinotecan administered using the weekly schedule was evaluated in a study of 183 patients that was prospectively designed to investigate the effect of age on irinotecan toxicity. Results from this trial indicate that there are no differences in the pharmacokinetics of irinotecan, SN-38, and SN-38 glucuronide in patients <65 years of age compared with patients ≥65 years of age. In a study of 162 patients that was not prospectively designed to investigate the effect of age, small (less than 18%) but statistically significant differences in dose-normalized irinotecan pharmacokinetic parameters in patients <65 years of age compared to patients ≥65 years of age were observed. Although dose-normalized AUC0–24 for SN-38 in patients ≥65 years of age was 11% higher than in patients <65 years of age, this difference was not statistically significant. No change in the starting dose is recommended for geriatric patients receiving the weekly dosage schedule of irinotecan [see Dosage and Administration (2)].

Effect of Gender

The pharmacokinetics of irinotecan do not appear to be influenced by gender.

Effect of Race

The influence of race on the pharmacokinetics of irinotecan has not been evaluated.

Effect of Hepatic Impairment

Irinotecan clearance is diminished in patients with hepatic impairment while exposure to the active metabolite SN-38 is increased relative to that in patients with normal hepatic function. The magnitude of these effects is proportional to the degree of liver impairment as measured by elevations in total bilirubin and transaminase concentrations. However, the tolerability of irinotecan in patients with hepatic dysfunction (bilirubin greater than 2 mg/dl) has not been assessed sufficiently, and no recommendations for dosing can be made [see Dosage and Administration (2.1), Warnings and Precautions (5.10) and Use in Specific Populations (8.7)].

Effect of Renal Impairment

The influence of renal impairment on the pharmacokinetics of irinotecan has not been evaluated. Therefore, caution should be undertaken in patients with impaired renal function. CAMPTOSAR is not recommended for use in patients on dialysis [see Use in Specific Populations (8.6)].

Drug Interactions

Dexamethasone, a moderate CYP3A4 inducer, does not appear to alter the pharmacokinetics of irinotecan.

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