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Clin Cancer Res. 2001 Aug;7(8):2292-300.

A phase I dose escalation and bioavailability study of oral sodium phenylbutyrate in patients with refractory solid tumor malignancies.

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Division of Medical Oncology, Department of Oncology, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 1 M88 Bunting-Blaustein Cancer Research Building, 2650 Orleans Street, Baltimore, MD 21231-1000, USA.



Phenylbutyrate (PB) is an aromatic fatty acid with multiple mechanisms of action including histone deacetylase inhibition. Preclinically, PB demonstrates both cytotoxic and differentiating effects at a concentration of 0.5 mM. We conducted a Phase I trial of p.o. PB patients with refractory solid tumor malignancies to evaluate toxicity, pharmacokinetic parameters, and feasibility of p.o. administration.


Twenty-eight patients with refractory solid tumor malignancies were enrolled on this dose-escalation to maximally tolerated dose trial. Five dose levels of PB were studied: 9 g/day (n = 4), 18 g/day (n = 4), 27 g/day (n = 4), 36 g/day (n = 12), and 45 g/day (n = 4). Pharmacokinetic studies were performed and included an p.o. bioavailability determination. Compliance data were also collected.


The recommended Phase II dose is 27 g/day. Overall the drug was well tolerated with the most common toxicities being grade 1-2 dyspepsia and fatigue. Nonoverlapping dose-limiting toxicities of nausea/vomiting and hypocalcemia were seen at 36 g/day. The p.o. bioavailability of PB was 78% for all dose levels, and the biologically active concentration of 0.5 mM was achieved at all dose levels. Compliance was excellent with 93.5% of all possible doses taken. No partial remission or complete remission was seen, but 7 patients had stable disease for more than 6 months while on the drug.


PB (p.o.) is well tolerated and achieves the concentration in vivo that has been shown to have biological activity in vitro. PB may have a role as a cytostatic agent and should be additionally explored in combination with cytotoxics and other novel drugs.

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