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J Clin Invest. 1998 Feb 15;101(4):847-54.

Genetic predisposition to the metabolism of irinotecan (CPT-11). Role of uridine diphosphate glucuronosyltransferase isoform 1A1 in the glucuronidation of its active metabolite (SN-38) in human liver microsomes.

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Committee on Clinical Pharmacology, The University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA.


Irinotecan (CPT-11) is a promising antitumor agent, recently approved for use in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer. Its active metabolite, SN-38, is glucuronidated by hepatic uridine diphosphate glucuronosyltransferases (UGTs). The major dose-limiting toxicity of irinotecan therapy is diarrhea, which is believed to be secondary to the biliary excretion of SN-38, the extent of which is determined by SN-38 glucuronidation. The purpose of this study was to identify the specific isoform of UGT involved in SN-38 glucuronidation. In vitro glucuronidation of SN-38 was screened in hepatic microsomes from normal rats (n = 4), normal humans (n = 25), Gunn rats (n = 3), and patients (n = 4) with Crigler-Najjar type I (CN-I) syndrome. A wide intersubject variability in in vitro SN-38 glucuronide formation rates was found in humans. Gunn rats and CN-I patients lacked SN-38 glucuronidating activity, indicating the role of UGT1 isoform in SN-38 glucuronidation. A significant correlation was observed between SN-38 and bilirubin glucuronidation (r = 0.89; P = 0.001), whereas there was a poor relationship between para-nitrophenol and SN-38 glucuronidation (r = 0.08; P = 0.703). Intact SN-38 glucuronidation was observed only in HK293 cells transfected with the UGT1A1 isozyme. These results demonstrate that UGT1A1 is the isoform responsible for SN-38 glucuronidation. These findings indicate a genetic predisposition to the metabolism of irinotecan, suggesting that patients with low UGT1A1 activity, such as those with Gilbert's syndrome, may be at an increased risk for irinotecan toxicity.

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