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A phase I trial was conducted in children with refractory solid tumors to determine the maximum tolerated dose (MTD), dose-limiting toxicity (DLT), pharmacokinetics, and pharmacodynamics for topotecan administered by a 30-min infusion for 5 consecutive days.Forty children with a variety of recurrent solid tumors, including nine patients with neuroblastoma and 10 with brain tumors, were given topotecan as a 30-min infusion for 5 consecutive days, beginning with a dose of 1.4 mg/m2/day. The dose was escalated in 20% increments after establishing that DLT was not present at the prior dose. Drug toxicity was graded using standard criteria. Dose-limiting toxicity was defined as grade 3 or 4 nonhematopoietic toxicity or grade 4 hematopoietic toxicity lasting >7 days. Pharmacokinetic studies were performed during the first infusion course.The DLT was hematopoietic and involved both platelets and neutrophils. Grade 4 hematopoietic toxicity of brief duration was seen at all dose levels. Over half of the patients received red blood cell transfusion support, and 19/40 received platelet transfusions. Hospital admissions for fever and neutropenia or for documented infections occurred in 32 of 169 courses of therapy. Gastrointestinal symptoms with nausea and vomiting or diarrhea were mild to moderate in 12 of the 40 patients. Antitumor responses were seen in three patients with neuroblastoma. An additional four patients (one with neuroblastoma. two with anaplastic astrocytomas, one with Ewing) had stable disease with continued therapy for >6 months. Using a limited sampling model, pharmacokinetic studies were performed in 36 of the 40 patients. Topotecan lactone and total clearance were similar to those reported in other pediatric populations receiving topotecan by continuous infusion. A pharmacodynamic relation between systemic exposure to topotecan lactone and myelosuppression was observed.In heavily pretreated children, the MTD for topotecan given by intermittent 30-min infusion for 5 days is 1.4 mg/m2 without GCSF and 2.0 mg/m2/day with GCSK. The dose-limiting toxicity is hematopoietic. Data from this study provide the basis for further studies of topotecan in children with cancer.