We previously demonstrated vast expansion of hypoxic areas in the leukemic microenvironment and provided a rationale for using hypoxia-activated prodrugs. PR104 is a phosphate ester that is rapidly hydrolyzed in vivo to the corresponding alcohol PR-104A and further reduced to the amine and hydroxyl-amine nitrogen mustards that induce DNA cross-linking in hypoxic cells under low oxygen concentrations. In this phase I/II study, patients with relapsed/refractory acute myeloid leukemia (n=40) after 1 or 2 prior treatments or acute lymphoblastic leukemia (n=10) after any number of prior treatments received PR104; dose ranged from 1.1 to 4 g/m2. The most common treatment-related grade 3/4 adverse events were myelosuppression (anemia 62%, neutropenia 50%, thrombocytopenia 46%), febrile neutropenia (40%), infection (24%), and enterocolitis (14%). Ten of 31 patients with acute myeloid leukemia (32%) and 2 of 10 patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (20%) who received 3 g/m2 or 4 g/m2 had a response (complete response, n=1; complete response without platelet recovery, n=5; morphological leukemia-free state, n=6). The extent of hypoxia was evaluated by the hypoxia tracer pimonidazole administered prior to a bone marrow biopsy and by immunohistochemical assessments of hypoxia-inducible factor alpha and carbonic anhydrase IX. A high fraction of leukemic cells expressed these markers, and PR104 administration resulted in measurable decrease of the proportions of hypoxic cells. These findings indicate that hypoxia is a prevalent feature of the leukemic microenvironment and that targeting hypoxia with hypoxia-activated prodrugs warrants further evaluation in acute leukemia.The trial is registered at clinicaltrials.gov identifier: 01037556.
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