BACKGROUND: Previous preclinical research has shown that extracorporeal devices can be used to enhance the delivery and distribution of systemically administered anticancer drugs, resulting in increased intratumoural concentrations. We aimed to assess the safety and feasibility of targeted release and enhanced delivery of doxorubicin to solid tumours from thermosensitive liposomes triggered by mild hyperthermia, induced non-invasively by focused ultrasound. METHODS: We did an open-label, single-centre, phase 1 trial in a single UK hospital. Adult patients (aged ≥18 years) with unresectable and non-ablatable primary or secondary liver tumours of any histological subtype were considered for the study. Patients received a single intravenous infusion (50 mg/m2) of lyso-thermosensitive liposomal doxorubicin (LTLD), followed by extracorporeal focused ultrasound exposure of a single target liver tumour. The trial had two parts: in part I, patients had a real-time thermometry device implanted intratumourally, whereas patients in part II proceeded without thermometry and we used a patient-specific model to predict optimal exposure parameters. We assessed tumour biopsies obtained before and after focused ultrasound exposure for doxorubicin concentration and distribution. The primary endpoint was at least a doubling of total intratumoural doxorubicin concentration in at least half of the patients treated, on an intention-to-treat basis. This study is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT02181075, and is now closed to recruitment. FINDINGS: Between March 13, 2015, and March 27, 2017, ten patients were enrolled in the study (six patients in part I and four in part II), and received a dose of LTLD followed by focused ultrasound exposure. The treatment resulted in an average increase of 3·7 times in intratumoural biopsy doxorubicin concentrations, from an estimate of 2·34 μg/g (SD 0·93) immediately after drug infusion to 8·56 μg/g (5·69) after focused ultrasound. Increases of two to ten times were observed in seven (70%) of ten patients, satisfying the primary endpoint. Serious adverse events registered were expected grade 4 transient neutropenia in five patients and prolonged hospital stay due to unexpected grade 1 confusion in one patient. Grade 3-4 adverse events recorded were neutropenia (grade 3 in one patient and grade 4 in five patients), and grade 3 anaemia in one patient. No treatment-related deaths occurred. INTERPRETATION: The combined treatment of LTLD and non-invasive focused ultrasound hyperthermia in this study seemed to be clinically feasible, safe, and able to enhance intratumoural drug delivery, providing targeted chemo-ablative response in human liver tumours that were refractory to standard chemotherapy. FUNDING: Oxford Biomedical Research Centre, National Institute for Health Research.
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