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J Clin Oncol. 1995 Aug;13(8):1995-2004.

Controlled trial of dexverapamil, a modulator of multidrug resistance, in lymphomas refractory to EPOCH chemotherapy.

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  • 1Medicine Branch, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.



Overexpression of the multidrug resistance gene (mdr-1) is present in up to 60% of relapsed lymphomas. To study its role in lymphomas, we conducted a controlled trial of dexverapamil, an inhibitor of the mdr-1 gene product, P-glycoprotein (Pgp), in lymphomas refractory to etoposide, prednisone, vincristine, cyclophosphamide, and doxorubicin (EPOCH) chemotherapy.


Eligible patients had recurrent Hodgkin's (HD) or non-Hodgkin's lymphomas (NHL) and measurable disease. Patients initially received EPOCH alone and those with stable tumor over two cycles or progressive disease crossed over to receive dexverapamil and EPOCH on subsequent cycles. Dexverapamil was escalated eight dose levels, from 240 to 1,200 mg/m2/d. When possible, serial biopsies were obtained to measure mdr-1 expression by quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR).


Of 154 patients entered onto the trial, 109 had NHL and 45 had HD. The median age was 44 years, 67% had stage IV disease, and the median number of prior regimens was two (range, one to 12) in NHL and one (range, one to four) in HD. Sixty-four patients (42%) crossed over, of which eight were not assessable. The maximum-tolerated dose of dexverapamil was 900 mg/m2/d. Among 41 NHL patients (excluding mycosis fungoides), there were three complete responses (CRs) and two partial responses (PRs) (12%) and five minor responses (MRs); two of 10 HD patients achieved PRs. The mdr-1 level was measured in 44 biopsies from 19 patients. Pretherapy, mdr-1 was low (median, 2.5 U) but increased (median, 12.2 U) at crossover. Of six patients with mdr-1 levels greater than 15 U, three responded to dexverapamil, while only one of eight patients with mdr-1 levels less than 15 U responded. EPOCH and dexverapamil were well tolerated, but compared with EPOCH alone, produced more hematologic toxicity.


These results suggest that Pgp plays a role in clinical drug resistance of lymphomas. However, they also suggest that mechanisms other than Pgp are prominent in heavily pretreated patients and that, although Pgp inhibition may be necessary, it is probably insufficient. Earlier intervention with dexverapamil may be more effective and warrants further study.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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