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Br J Cancer. 1998 Aug;78(3):336-43.

Interaction of thalidomide, phthalimide analogues of thalidomide and pentoxifylline with the anti-tumour agent 5,6-dimethylxanthenone-4-acetic acid: concomitant reduction of serum tumour necrosis factor-alpha and enhancement of anti-tumour activity.

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  • 1Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre, University of Auckland School of Medicine, New Zealand.


DMXAA (5,6-dimethylxanthenone-4-acetic acid), a novel anti-tumour agent currently undergoing clinical evaluation, appears to mediate its anti-tumour effects through immune modulation and the production of the cytokine tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF). Our previous studies have shown that thalidomide, a potent inhibitor of TNF biosynthesis that has numerous biological effects, including inhibition of tumour angiogenesis, unexpectedly augments the anti-tumour response in mice to DMXAA. We show here that thalidomide (100 mg kg(-1)) has no effect when administered with inactive doses of DMXAA, and that it must be given simultaneously with an active dose of DMXAA to have its maximum potentiating effect on the growth of the murine Colon 38 adenocarcinoma. To address the issue of whether inhibition of serum TNF production is important for potentiation of anti-tumour activity, we have tested three potent analogues of thalidomide. All three analogues, when co-administered with DMXAA to mice at doses lower than those used with thalidomide, inhibited TNF production and were effective in potentiating the anti-tumour activity of DMXAA against transplanted Colon 38 tumours. One of the analogues, N-phenethyltetrafluorophthalimide, was 1000-fold more potent than thalidomide and at a dose of 0.1 mg kg(-1) in combination with DMXAA (30 mg kg(-1)) cured 100% of mice, compared with 67% for the group treated with DMXAA alone. We also tested pentoxifylline and found it to suppress TNF production in response to DMXAA and to potentiate the anti-tumour effect of DMXAA. The results are compatible with the hypothesis that pharmacological reduction of serum TNF levels might benefit the anti-tumour effects of DMXAA and suggest new strategies for therapy using this agent.

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