Mechanism of Action
Epirubicin is an anthracycline cytotoxic agent. Although it is known that anthracyclines can interfere with a number of biochemical and biological functions within eukaryotic cells, the precise mechanisms of epirubicin’s cytotoxic and/or antiproliferative properties have not been completely elucidated.
Epirubicin forms a complex with DNA by intercalation of its planar rings between nucleotide base pairs, with consequent inhibition of nucleic acid (DNA and RNA) and protein synthesis.
Such intercalation triggers DNA cleavage by topoisomerase II, resulting in cytocidal activity. Epirubicin also inhibits DNA helicase activity, preventing the enzymatic separation of double-stranded DNA and interfering with replication and transcription. Epirubicin is also involved in oxidation/reduction reactions by generating cytotoxic free radicals. The antiproliferative and cytotoxic activity of epirubicin is thought to result from these or other possible mechanisms.
Epirubicin is cytotoxic in vitro to a variety of established murine and human cell lines and primary cultures of human tumors. It is also active in vivo against a variety of murine tumors and human xenografts in athymic mice, including breast tumors.
Epirubicin pharmacokinetics are linear over the dose range of 60 to 150 mg/m2 and plasma clearance is not affected by the duration of infusion or administration schedule. Pharmacokinetic parameters for epirubicin following 6 to 10 minute, single-dose intravenous infusions of epirubicin hydrochloride injection at doses of 60 to 150 mg/m2 in patients with solid tumors are shown in Table 4. The plasma concentration declined in a triphasic manner with mean half-lives for the alpha, beta, and gamma phases of about 3 minutes, 2.5 hours, and 33 hours, respectively.
Table 4. Summary of Mean (± SD) Pharmacokinetic Parameters in Patients
With Solid Tumors Receiving Intravenous Epirubicin Hydrochloride Injection 60 to 150 mg/m2
||5.7 ± 1.6
||1.6 ± 0.2
||35.3 ± 9
||65 ± 8
||21 ± 2
||5.3 ± 1.5
||1.7 ± 0.3
||32.1 ± 5
||83 ± 14
||27 ± 11
||9 ± 3.5
||3.4 ± 0.7
||33.7 ± 4
||65 ± 13
||23 ± 7
||9.3 ± 2.9
||4.2 ± 0.8
||31.1 ± 6
||69 ± 13
||21 ± 7
Following intravenous administration, epirubicin is rapidly and widely distributed into the tissues. Binding of epirubicin to plasma proteins, predominantly albumin, is about 77% and is not affected by drug concentration. Epirubicin also appears to concentrate in red blood cells; whole blood concentrations are approximately twice those of plasma.
Epirubicin is extensively and rapidly metabolized by the liver and is also metabolized by other organs and cells, including red blood cells. Four main metabolic routes have been identified:
(1) reduction of the C-13 keto-group with the formation of the 13(S)-dihydro derivative, epirubicinol; (2) conjugation of both the unchanged drug and epirubicinol with glucuronic acid; (3) loss of the amino sugar moiety through a hydrolytic process with the formation of the doxorubicin and doxorubicinol aglycones; and (4) loss of the amino sugar moiety through a redox process with the formation of the 7-deoxy-doxorubicin aglycone and 7-deoxy-doxorubicinol aglycone. Epirubicinol has in vitro cytotoxic activity one-tenth that of epirubicin. As plasma levels of epirubicinol are lower than those of the unchanged drug, they are unlikely to reach in vivo concentrations sufficient for cytotoxicity. No significant activity or toxicity has been reported for the other metabolites.
Epirubicin and its major metabolites are eliminated through biliary excretion and, to a lesser extent, by urinary excretion. Mass-balance data from 1 patient found about 60% of the total radioactive dose in feces (34%) and urine (27%). These data are consistent with those from 3 patients with extrahepatic obstruction and percutaneous drainage, in whom approximately 35% and 20% of the administered dose were recovered as epirubicin or its major metabolites in bile and urine, respectively, in the 4 days after treatment.
Effect of Age
A population analysis of plasma data from 36 cancer patients (13 males and 23 females, 20 to 73 years) showed that age affects plasma clearance of epirubicin in female patients. The predicted plasma clearance for a female patient of 70 years of age was about 35% lower than that for a female patient of 25 years of age. An insufficient number of males > 50 years of age were included in the study to draw conclusions about age-related alterations in clearance in males. Although a lower epirubicin hydrochloride injection starting dose does not appear necessary in elderly female patients, and was not used in clinical trials, particular care should be taken in monitoring toxicity when epirubicin hydrochloride injection is administered to female patients > 70 years of age [see Patient Counseling Information (17)].
Effect of Gender
In patients ≤ 50 years of age, mean clearance values in adult male and female patients were similar. The clearance of epirubicin is decreased in elderly women.
Effect of Race
The influence of race on the pharmacokinetics of epirubicin has not been evaluated.
Effect of Hepatic Impairment
Epirubicin is eliminated by both hepatic metabolism and biliary excretion and clearance is reduced in patients with hepatic dysfunction. In a study of the effect of hepatic dysfunction, patients with solid tumors were classified into 3 groups. Patients in Group 1 (n = 22) had serum AST (SGOT) levels above the upper limit of normal (median: 93 IU/L) and normal serum bilirubin levels (median: 0.5 mg/dL) and were given epirubicin hydrochloride injection doses of 12.5 to 90 mg/m2. Patients in Group 2 had alterations in both serum AST (median: 175 IU/L) and bilirubin levels (median: 2.7 mg/dL) and were treated with an epirubicin hydrochloride injection dose of 25 mg/m2 (n = 8). Their pharmacokinetics were compared to those of patients with normal serum AST and bilirubin values, who received epirubicin hydrochloride injection doses of 12.5 to 120 mg/m2. The median plasma clearance of epirubicin was decreased compared to patients with normal hepatic function by about 30% in patients in Group 1 and by 50% in patients in Group 2. Patients with more severe hepatic impairment have not been evaluated [see Dosage and Administration (2.2), and Warnings and Precautions (5.5)].
Effect of Renal Impairment
No significant alterations in the pharmacokinetics of epirubicin or its major metabolite, epirubicinol, have been observed in patients with serum creatinine < 5 mg/dL. A 50% reduction in plasma clearance was reported in four patients with serum creatinine ≥ 5 mg/dL [see Warnings and Precautions (5.6) and Dosing and Administration (2.2)]. Patients on dialysis have not been studied.
Effect of Paclitaxel
The administration of paclitaxel (175 to 225 mg/m2 as a 3 hour infusion) immediately before or after epirubicin (90 mg/m2 as bolus) caused variable increases in the systemic exposure (mean AUC) of epirubicin ranging from 5% to 109%. At same doses of epirubicin and paclitaxel, the mean AUC of the inactive metabolites of epirubicin (epirubicinol and 7-deoxy-aglycone) increased by 120% and 70%, respectively, when paclitaxel was immediately administered after epirubicin. Epirubicin had no effect on the exposure of paclitaxel whether it was administered before or after paclitaxel.
Effect of Docetaxel
The administration of docetaxel (70 mg/m2 as 1 hour infusion) immediately before or after epirubicin (90 mg/m2 as bolus) had no effect on the systemic exposure (mean AUC) of epirubicin. However, the mean AUC of epirubicinol and 7-deoxy-aglycone increased by 22.5% and 95%, respectively, when docetaxel was immediately administered after epirubicin compared to epirubicin alone. Epirubicin had no effect on the exposure of docetaxel whether it was administered before or after docetaxel.
Effect of Cimetidine
Coadministration of cimetidine (400 mg twice daily for 7 days starting 5 days before chemotherapy) increased the mean AUC of epirubicin (100 mg/m2) by 50% and decreased its plasma clearance by 30%.
Drugs Metabolized by Cytochrome P-450 Enzymes
No systematic in vitro or in vivo evaluation has been performed to examine the potential for inhibition or induction by epirubicin of oxidative cytochrome P-450 isoenzymes.
Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment of Fertility
Conventional long-term animal studies to evaluate the carcinogenic potential of epirubicin have not been conducted, but intravenous administration of a single 3.6 mg/kg epirubicin dose to female rats (about 0.2 times the maximum recommended human dose on a body surface area basis) approximately doubled the incidence of mammary tumors (primarily fibroadenomas) observed at 1 year. Administration of 0.5 mg/kg epirubicin intravenously to rats (about 0.025 times the maximum recommended human dose on a body surface area basis) every 3 weeks for ten doses increased the incidence of subcutaneous fibromas in males over an 18 month observation period. In addition, subcutaneous administration of 0.75 or 1 mg/kg/day (about 0.015 times the maximum recommended human dose on a body surface area basis) to newborn rats for 4 days on both the first and tenth day after birth for a total of eight doses increased the incidence of animals with tumors compared to controls during a 24 month observation period.
Epirubicin was mutagenic in vitro to bacteria (Ames test) either in the presence or absence of metabolic activation and to mammalian cells (HGPRT assay in V79 Chinese hamster lung fibroblasts) in the absence but not in the presence of metabolic activation. Epirubicin was clastogenic in vitro (chromosome aberrations in human lymphocytes) both in the presence and absence of metabolic activation and was also clastogenic in vivo (chromosome aberration in mouse bone marrow).
In fertility studies in rats, males were given epirubicin daily for 9 weeks and mated with females that were given epirubicin daily for 2 weeks prior to mating and through Day 7 of gestation. When 0.3 mg/kg/day (about 0.015 times the maximum recommended human single dose on a body surface area basis) was administered to both sexes, no pregnancies resulted. No effects on mating behavior or fertility were observed at 0.1 mg/kg/day, but male rats had atrophy of the testes and epididymis, and reduced spermatogenesis. The 0.1 mg/kg/day dose also caused embryolethality. An increased incidence of fetal growth retardation was observed in these studies at 0.03 mg/kg/day (about 0.0015 times the maximum recommended human single dose on a body surface area basis). Multiple daily doses of epirubicin to rabbits and dogs also caused atrophy of male reproductive organs. Single 20.5 and 12 mg/kg doses of intravenous epirubicin caused testicular atrophy in mice and rats, respectively (both approximately 0.5 times the maximum recommended human dose on a body surface area basis). A single dose of 16.7 mg/kg epirubicin caused uterine atrophy in rats.