Renal function during rofecoxib therapy in patients with metastatic cancer: retrospective analysis of a prospective phase II trial
© Reinhold et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2011
Received: 29 June 2010
Accepted: 5 January 2011
Published: 5 January 2011
Angiostatic/antiinflammatory therapy with COX-II inhibitors and pioglitazone seems to be a well tolerated and promising regimen in patients with metastatic cancer. COX-II inhibitors may have less gastrointestinal side effects than conventional non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs, but their impact on renal function seems to be similar.
87 patients with metastatic/advanced cancer were treated up to 12 months (mean 19.5 weeks) with rofecoxib, pioglitazone and either capecitabine (group A with gastrointestinal and urological cancer, n = 50) or trofosfamide (group B with non-gastrointestinal/non-urological cancer, n = 37) and followed for further 6 months.
Baseline serum creatinine concentration was 0.81 ± 0.28 mg/dl, and increased by about 0.15 mg/dl during months 1-3. Accordingly estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) decreased from 90.3 ml/min ± 3.6 ml/min at baseline by about 10 ml/min during months 1-3. Renal function decreased in 75 patients (86%) in the first month (p < 0.0001). This decrease went along with clinical signs of volume expansion. Renal function tended to recover after discontinuation of the study medication.
Therapy with rofecoxib in an antiangiogenic/antiinflammatory setting results in a decrease of renal function in nearly every patient.
Trial registration number
German Clinical Trials Register DRKS: DRKS00000119
Cyclooxygenases (both isoforms, COX-I and COX-II) oxidize arachidonic acid to prostaglandin H2, which is converted by different synthases to prostaglandin-E2, -D2, -I2, -F2α, and thromboxane A2. These prostaglandins inhibit apoptosis and promote cell division, metastasis and angiogenesis leading to increased tumor growth . An antiangiogenic/antiinflammatory therapy with COX-II inhibitors and pioglitazone combined with metronomic low-dose chemotherapy with either capecitabine or trofosfamide seems to be well tolerated and promising in patients with advanced carcinomas [2, 3]. However, in one study in patients with colorectal cancer increased gastrointestinal toxicity was reported . Since COX-II inhibitors are known to elicit renal side effects to a similar extent than conventional non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs , the detailed analysis of any change in serum creatinine concentrations and glomerular filtration rate in a prospective trial of antiangiogenic/antiinflammatory therapy in advanced cancer was our primary objective.
Baseline patient characteristics and underlying malignancy
Age in years (range)
(30 - 81)
Baseline serum creatinine concentration in mg/dl (± SEM)
Concomitant nephrotoxic/volume depleting or blood pressure lowering medication
- Loop diuretics
- ACE inhibitor
- AT2 blocker
- Aldosterone antagonists
Group A (treated with capezitabine, rofecoxib and pioglitazone)
Group B (treated with trofosfamid, rofecoxib and pioglitazone)
Renal cell carcinoma
Gall bladder carcinoma
Chronic lymphatic leukemia
Patients were recruited between 2000 and 2004. Treatment was administered up to 12 months and patients were followed up for further 6 months. 25 mg rofecoxib/day was administered to 75 patients, and a reduced dose (12.5 mg/day) was administered to 12 patients with pre-existing renal impairment. Renal impairment, that triggered a dose reduction of rofecoxib in the prospective phase II trial, had been defined as any serum creatinine concentration that exceeded the normal range. Serum creatinine concentrations were measured before inclusion of a patient and every month thereafter. The normal range of serum creatinine concentration in our institution is 05.-0.8 mg/dl for women and 0.8-1.1 mg/dl for men.
Glomerular filtration rate was estimated using the method of Cockcroft and Gault .
Provisions were made to reduce rofecoxib dose in case of a rise in serum creatinine concentration above 1.3 mg/dl or WHO grade >1 edema.
The study was stopped because of withdrawal of rofecoxib from the market.
We used the Wilcoxon signed rank test for the retrospective data analysis. Data are given as mean ± standard error of the mean.
Serum creatinine concentration and glomerular filtration rate
In patients with pre-existing renal impairment, treated with a reduced dose of rofecoxib the average serum creatinine concentration rose from 1.01 mg/dl ± 0.1 mg/dl to a maximum of 1.25 mg/dl ± 0.27 mg/dl in the fifth month (p = 0.0058).
Serum sodium concentrations
Serum sodium concentrations during rofecoxib therapy remained unchanged. A decrease from 139.8 mmol/l ± 0.39 mmol/l to 137.0 mmol/l ± 1.28 mmol/l in month nine (p = 0.006) appears to be a chance finding due to low numbers of patients remaining in the study. Serum sodium concentration remained stable after treatment stop.
Body weight and edema formation
Mean body weight before treatment was 73.7 kg ± 1.7 kg, fluctuated from month to month with a lower mean body weight on month 2, 5 and 7, but increased significantly during therapy with rofecoxib up to the eighth month with 10 patients remaining at risk. The highest increase in mean body weight of 4.1 kg was noted in the eleventh month after start of rofecoxib treatment with only 8 patients remaining in the study. The increase in body weight went along with edema formation in 30 patients (34%).
Immediately after discontinuation of treatment mean body weight fell significantly from 74.2 kg ± 1.7 kg to 72.1 kg ± 2.5 kg.
Mean systolic blood pressure rose during therapy from 130.1 mmHg ± 2.1 mmHg to 137.8 mmHg ± 6.2 mmHg after twelve months except in months 2, 6, 7 and 10, where the mean systolic blood pressure was at or lower than baseline. In the first, second and fourth month after cessation of rofecoxib therapy, mean systolic blood pressure was significantly lower than during therapy.
Mean diastolic blood pressure remained unchanged throughout the trial.
We found a significant increase in mean serum creatinine concentration (p < 0.0001) already in the first month after initiation of treatment with rofecoxib. This increase was sustained during treatment and ranged around 0.15 mg/dl, corresponding to a decrease of eGFR of around 10 ml/min, reaching up to 14 ml/min in month 4. However, mean serum creatinine concentration remained within the normal range during and after end of the trial and no dialysis treatment was needed. Rofecoxib is known to cause acute renal failure at a rate of 1.2 to 1.5% in trials studying several thousands of patients [7, 8], but even a single dose of rofecoxib can cause severe acute renal failure . Furthermore, the half life of COX-II inhibitors rofecoxib and celecoxib is prolonged in liver failure . Though patients with severe hepatic failure were excluded from the present study, 52% of the patients presented with liver metastasis and thus might have been subjected to a higher exposure of rofecoxib due to prolonged half life. Progressive underlying malignant disease may as well have contributed to functional prerenal failure i.e. due to decreased fluid intake. The decreased renal function however tended to normalize within 2 months after cessation of rofecoxib therapy (Figure 2 and 4), suggesting rofecoxib as the more likely cause of decreased renal function, especially as we observed no severe nausea, vomiting or diarrhea during the treatment phase.
We observed edema formation in 30 patients (34%), which is above the rate observed in large studies ranging between 7.7 and 23.3% [8, 11, 12] and which is possibly due to the persistent decrease in renal function, the well-known sodium- and/or fluid retaining properties of COX-2 inhibitors and thiazolidindiones, and the underlying malignant disease with hypoproteinemia.
The rise in mean systolic blood pressure during therapy corresponds to published data [13, 14] and went along with increasing body weight, probably both reflecting renal impairment and subsequent fluid retention. Weight gain is often seen in patients with diabetes treated with pioglitazone  and pioglitazone may have contributed to edema formation and the observed increase in body weight in our study, but weight gain in our study population is even more astonishing in regard of the underlying malignancy which usually leads to progressive weight loss as demonstrated after end of treatment.
The antiinflammatory antiangiogenic therapy with a COX-II inhibitor in combination with pioglitazone and either trofosfamide or capecitabine seems to be both well tolerated and promising with primary disease response rates reaching up to 19% .
This study was stopped because of withdrawal of rofecoxib from the market, but the concept of an antiinflammatory antiangiogenic therapy with COX-II inhibitors proves to be true also for other COX-II inhibitors like celecoxib, still available on the market [16–18]. There are also clearly class effects like prolonged half life in liver failure  or decreasing renal function, which have been shown for rofecoxib as well as for celecoxib .
The decrease in renal function in our study has to be seen in the clinical context. A rise in mean serum creatinine concentration of 0.15 mg/dl is of limited importance to young patients with normal body weight and normal renal function. However, a mean fall in eGFR of up to 14 ml/min nevertheless may urge the physician to adapt the dose of concomitant medications or even stop the treatment with a COX-II inhibitor especially in the elderly patient with reduced body weight and pre-existing renal failure, suggesting the report of our results to be of persistent importance even in the light of withdrawal of rofecoxib from the market.
We recommend close monitoring of renal function and blood pressure of patients with cancer treated with COX-II inhibitors, especially in a setting with pre-existing renal and hepatic failure.
The authors thank all patients and the study nurses that participated in the study.
- Grösch S, Maier TJ, Schiffmann S, Geisslinger G: Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2)-independent anticarcinogenic effects of selective COX-2 inhibitors. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2006, 98: 736-48.PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Reichle A, Vogt T: Systems biology: A therapeutic target for tumor therapy. Cancer Microenvironment. 2008, 1: 159-170. 10.1007/s12307-008-0012-5.PubMedPubMed CentralView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Reichle A, Bross K, Vogt T, Bataille F, Wild P, Berand A, Krause SW, Andreesen R: Pioglitazone and rofecoxib combined with angiostatically scheduled trofosfamide in the treatment of far-advanced melanoma and soft tissue sarcoma. Cancer. 2004, 101: 2247-56. 10.1002/cncr.20574.PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Becerra CR, Frenkel EP, Ashfaq R, Gaynor RB: Increased toxicity and lack of efficacy of Rofecoxib in combination with chemotherapy for treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer: A phase II study. Int J Cancer. 2003, 105: 868-72. 10.1002/ijc.11164.PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Krämer BK, Kammerl MC, Kömhoff M: Renal Cyclooxygenase-2 (Cox-2). Kidney Blood Press Res. 2004, 27: 43-62.PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Cockcroft DW, Gault MH: Prediction of creatinine clearance from serum creatinine. Nephron. 1976, 16: 31-41. 10.1159/000180580.PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Bombardier C, Laine L, Reicin A, Shapiro D, Burgos-Vargas R, Davis B, Day R, Ferraz MB, Hawkey CJ, Hochberg MC, Kvien TK, Schnitzer TJ, for the VIGOR Study Group: Comparison of upper gastrointestinal toxicity of rofecoxib and naproxen in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. N Engl J Med. 2000, 343: 1520-8. 10.1056/NEJM200011233432103.PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Whelton A, Fort JG, Puma JA, Normandin D, Bello AE, Verburg KM, for the SUCCESSS VI Study Group: Cyclooxygenase-2-specific inhibitors and cardiorenal function: A randomised, controlled trial of celecoxib and rofecoxib in older hypertensive osteoarthrits patients. Am J Ther. 2001, 8: 85-95. 10.1097/00045391-200103000-00003.PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Reinhold SW, Fischereder M, Riegger GA, Krämer BK: Acute renal failure after administration of a single dose of a highly selective COX-2 inhibitor. Clin Nephrol. 2003, 60: 295-6.PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- FitzGerald GA, Patrono C: The coxibs, selective inhibitors of cyclooxygenase-2. N Engl J Med. 2001, 345: 433-42. 10.1056/NEJM200108093450607.PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Whelton A, White WB, Bello AE, Puma JA, Fort JG, the SUCCESS-VII investigators: Effects of celecoxib and rofecoxib on blood pressure and edema in patients > 65 years of age with systemic hypertension and osteoarthritis. Am J Cardiol. 2002, 90: 959-63. 10.1016/S0002-9149(02)02661-9.PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Wolfe F, Zhao S, Pettitt D: Blood pressure destabilization and edema among 8538 users of celecoxib, rofecoxib, and nonselective nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAID) and nonusers of NSAID receiving ordinary clinical care. J Rheumatol. 2004, 31: 1143-51.PubMedGoogle Scholar
- Wolfe F, Michaud K, Zhao SZ: Patient perception of the burden of weight gain and blood pressure increase among RA patients using celecoxib, rofecoxib and non-specific NSAIDs. J Clin Rheumatol. 2003, 9: 344-53. 10.1097/01.rhu.0000099744.85700.50.PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Sowers JR, White WB, Pitt B, Whelton A, Simon LS, Winer N, Kivitz A, van Ingen H, Brabant T, Fort JG, Celecoxib Rofecoxib Efficacy and Safety in Comorbidities Evaluation Trial (CRESCENT) Investigators: The effects of cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitors and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory therapy on 24-hour blood pressure in patients with hypertension, osteoarthritis, and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Arch Intern Med. 2005, 165: 161-8. 10.1001/archinte.165.2.161.PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Derosa G, Tinelli C, Maffioli P: Effects of pioglitazone and rosiglitazone combined with metformin on body weight in people with diabetes. Diabetes Obes Metab. 2009, 11: 1091-9. 10.1111/j.1463-1326.2009.01087.x.PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Lipton A, Campbell-Baird C, Witters L, Harvey H, Ali S: Phase II trial of gemcitabine, irinotecan, and celecoxib in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2010, 44: 286-8. 10.1097/MCG.0b013e3181cda097.PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Bhatt RS, Merchan J, Parker R, Wu HK, Zhang L, Seery V, Heymach JV, Atkins MB, McDermott D, Sukhatme VP: A phase 2 pilot trial of low-dose, continuous infusion, or "metronomic" paclitaxel and oral celcecoxib in patients with metastatic melanoma. Cancer. 2010, 116: 1751-6. 10.1002/cncr.24902.PubMedPubMed CentralView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Noberasco C, Spitaleri G, Mancuso P, Zorzino L, Radice D, Milani A, Rocca A, Bertolini F, Sandri MT, Curigliano G, de Pas T, Jemos C, Omodeo Salè E, Boselli S, de Braud F: Safety, tolerability and biological effects of long-term metronomic administration of non-cytotoxic anti-angiogenic agents. Oncology. 2009, 77: 358-65. 10.1159/000275830.PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Rossat M, Maillard J, Nussberger J, Brunner HR, Burnier M: Renal effects of cyclooxygenase-2 inhibition in normotensive salt-depleted subjects. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 1999, 66: 76-84. 10.1016/S0009-9236(99)70056-1.PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.