A phase IIa study of HA-irinotecan, formulation of hyaluronic acid and irinotecan targeting CD44 in extensive-stage small cell lung cancer

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Preclinical studies in small cell lung cancer (SCLC) have shown that hyaluronic acid (HA) can be effectively used to deliver chemotherapy and selectively decrease CD44 expressing (stem cell-like) tumour cells. The current study aimed to replicate these findings and obtain data on safety and activity of HA-irinotecan (HA-IR). Eligible patients with extensive stage SCLC were consented. A safety cohort (n = 5) was treated with HA-IR and Carboplatin (C). Subsequently, the patients were randomised 1:1 to receive experimental (HA-IR + C) or standard (IR + C) treatment, to a maximum of 6 cycles. The second line patients were added to the study and treated with open label HA-IR + C. Tumour response was measured after every 2 cycles. Baseline tumour specimens were stained for CD44s and CD44v6 expression. Circulating tumour cells (CTCs) were enumerated before each treatment cycle. Out of 39 patients screened, 34 were evaluable for the study. The median age was 66 (range 39–83). The overall response rates were 69% and 75% for experimental and standard arms respectively. Median progression free survival was 42 and 28 weeks, respectively (p = 0.892). The treatments were well tolerated. The incidence of grade III/IV diarrhea was more common in the standard arm, while anaemia was more common in the experimental arm. IHC analysis suggested that the patients with CD44s positive tumours may gain survival benefit from HA-IR. HA-IR is well tolerated and active in ES-SCLC. The effect of HA-IR on CD44s + cancer stem-like cells provide an early hint towards a potential novel target.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)288-298
Number of pages11
JournalInvestigational New Drugs
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018


  • Cancer stem cells
  • CD44
  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Small cell lung cancer

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