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Br J Cancer. 1999 Sep;81(1):19-23.

Inhibition of tumour growth by marimastat in a human xenograft model of gastric cancer: relationship with levels of circulating CEA.

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Department of Surgery, Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham, UK.


Inhibition of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) is an attractive approach to adjuvant therapy in the treatment of cancer. Marimastat is the first orally administered, synthetic MMP inhibitor to be evaluated, in this capacity, in the clinic. Measurement of the rate of change of circulating tumour antigens was used for evaluating biological activity and defining optimum dosage in the early clinical trials of marimastat. Although tumour antigen levels have been used in the clinical management of cancer for many years, they have not been validated as markers of disease progression. In order to investigate the relationship between the effects of marimastat on tumour growth and circulating tumour antigen levels, mice bearing the human gastric tumour, MGLVA1, were treated with marimastat. The MMP inhibitor exerted a significant therapeutic effect, reducing tumour growth rate by 48% (P = 0.0005), and increasing median survival from 19 to 30 days (P = 0.0001). In addition, carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) levels were measured in serum samples from animals sacrificed at regular intervals, and correlated with excised tumour weight. It was shown that the natural log of the CEA concentration was linearly related to the natural log of the tumour weight and that treatment was not a significant factor in this relationship (P = 0.7). In conclusion, circulating CEA levels were not directly affected by marimastat, but did reflect tumour size. These results support the use of cancer antigens as markers of biological activity in early phase trials of non-cytotoxic anticancer agents.

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