Send to

Choose Destination
J Clin Oncol. 1998 Aug;16(8):2745-51.

Pathophysiology and therapy of irinotecan-induced delayed-onset diarrhea in patients with advanced colorectal cancer: a prospective assessment.

Author information

Paul Brousse Hospital, Villejuif, France.



Irinotecan (CPT-11), a camptothecin derivative, has shown efficacy against colorectal cancer. Delayed-onset diarrhea is its main limiting toxicity. The aim of this study was to determine the pathophysiology of CPT-11-induced delayed-onset diarrhea and assess the efficacy of combined antidiarrheal medication in a phase II, prospective, successive-cohorts, open study.


Twenty-eight patients with advanced colorectal cancer refractory to fluorouracil (5-FU) therapy received CPT-11 350 mg/m2 every 3 weeks. The first cohort of 14 consecutive patients explored for the mechanism of diarrhea received acetorphan (a new enkephalinase inhibitor) 100 mg three times daily; the second 14-patient cohort received, in addition to acetorphan, loperamide 4 mg three times daily. Before treatment, and if late diarrhea occurred, patients underwent colon mucosal biopsies for CPT-11 and topoisomerase I levels; intestinal transit time; fecalogram; fat and protein excretion; alpha1-antitrypsin clearance; D-xylose test; blood levels for vasoactive intestinal polypeptide, glucagon, gastrin, somatostatin, prostaglandin E2, and carboxylesterase; CPT-11/SN-38 and SN-38 glucuronide pharmacokinetics; and stool cultures.


Delayed-onset diarrhea occurred during the first three treatment cycles in 23 patients (82%). Electrolyte fecal measurements showed a negative or small osmotic gap in nine of nine patients and an increased alpha1-antitrypsin clearance in six of six patients. There were no modifications in stool cultures or hormonal dysfunction. Four of 11 patients (36%) with delayed-onset diarrhea in the first cohort responded to acetorphan, whereas nine of 10 patients (90%) responded to the combination of acetorphan and loperamide (P < .02).


CPT-11-induced delayed-onset diarrhea is caused by a secretory mechanism with an exudative component. Early combined treatment with loperamide and acetorphan seems effective in controlling the diarrheal episodes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Atypon
Loading ...
Support Center