Combined treatment of stage IV melanoma patients with amifostine and fotemustine — a pilot study

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Amifostine (Ethyol) is a new chemoprotective agent that has been shown to have significant activity in the prevention of nephro-, oto-, neuro- and haemotoxicity. In preclinical models as well as in clinical trials carried out in patients suffering from various malignancies, the adverse effects and signs of toxicity related to a number of cytostatic drugs, including cisplatin, cyclophosphamide, carboplatin and mitomycin C, were prevented. In Europe fotemustine (Muphoran) is widely used in the treatment of brain metastases in melanoma patients. However, the dose is often limited by severe bone marrow toxicity after induction cycles, particularly in heavily pretreated patients. In order to test whether amifostine treatment might promote bone marrow protective effects when combined with fotemustine chemotherapy, we conducted a preliminary study in 10 patients suffering from stage IV disseminated malignant melanoma. The patients received amifostine (740 mg/m2) prior to fotemustine chemotherapy (100 mg/m2). Six of the patients had failed one or two other prior chemotherapy regimens. Seven patients had brain metastases. Among the 10 patients treated with amifostine and fotemustine, no major clinical responses (complete response or partial response) were achieved, with four patients showing stabilization of the disease over more than 3 months. No patient in the amifostine plus fotemustine treatment group showed severe myelosuppression (WHO grade III/IV), in contrast to a historical control group treated with fotemustine alone, in which about 40% developed major thrombocytopenia and about 45% developed severe leucopenia (WHO grade III/IV). Therefore, we conclude that the combination of amifostine with fotemustine was well tolerated in this small series of patients and further studies are warranted to test the amelioration of myelosuppression by the addition of amifostine.

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