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Mechanism Of Action

ABRAXANE is a microtubule inhibitor that promotes the assembly of microtubules from tubulin dimers and stabilizes microtubules by preventing depolymerization. This stability results in the inhibition of the normal dynamic reorganization of the microtubule network that is essential for vital interphase and mitotic cellular functions. Paclitaxel induces abnormal arrays or “bundles” of microtubules throughout the cell cycle and multiple asters of microtubules during mitosis.



The pharmacokinetics of total paclitaxel following 30 and 180-minute infusions of ABRAXANE at dose levels of 80 to 375 mg/m² were determined in clinical studies. Dose levels of mg/m² refer to mg of paclitaxel in ABRAXANE. Following intravenous administration of ABRAXANE, paclitaxel plasma concentrations declined in a biphasic manner, the initial rapid decline representing distribution to the peripheral compartment and the slower second phase representing drug elimination.

The drug exposure (AUCs) was dose proportional over 80 to 300 mg/m² and the pharmacokinetics of paclitaxel for ABRAXANE were independent of the duration of intravenous administration.

The pharmacokinetic data of 260 mg/m² ABRAXANE administered over a 30-minute infusion was compared to the pharmacokinetics of 175 mg/m² paclitaxel injection over a 3-hour infusion. Clearance was larger (43%) and the volume of distribution was higher (53%) for ABRAXANE than for paclitaxel injection. There were no differences in terminal half-lives.


Following ABRAXANE administration to patients with solid tumors, paclitaxel is evenly distributed into blood cells and plasma and is highly bound to plasma proteins (94%). In a within-patient comparison study, the fraction of unbound paclitaxel in plasma was significantly higher with ABRAXANE (6.2%) than with solvent-based paclitaxel (2.3%). This contributes to significantly higher exposure to unbound paclitaxel with ABRAXANE compared with solvent-based paclitaxel, when the total exposure is comparable. In vitro studies of binding to human serum proteins, using paclitaxel concentrations ranging from 0.1 to 50 μg/mL, indicated that the presence of cimetidine, ranitidine, dexamethasone, or diphenhydramine did not affect protein binding of paclitaxel. The total volume of distribution is approximately 1741 L; the large volume of distribution indicates extensive extravascular distribution and/or tissue binding of paclitaxel.


In vitro studies with human liver microsomes and tissue slices showed that paclitaxel was metabolized primarily to 6α- hydroxypaclitaxel by CYP2C8; and to two minor metabolites, 3'-p-hydroxypaclitaxel and 6α, 3'-p-dihydroxypaclitaxel, by CYP3A4. In vitro, the metabolism of paclitaxel to 6α-hydroxypaclitaxel was inhibited by a number of agents (ketoconazole, verapamil, diazepam, quinidine, dexamethasone, cyclosporin, teniposide, etoposide, and vincristine), but the concentrations used exceeded those found in vivo following normal therapeutic doses. Testosterone, 17α-ethinyl estradiol, retinoic acid, and quercetin, a specific inhibitor of CYP2C8, also inhibited the formation of 6α-hydroxypaclitaxel in vitro. The pharmacokinetics of paclitaxel may also be altered in vivo as a result of interactions with compounds that are substrates, inducers, or inhibitors of CYP2C8 and/or CYP3A4 [see DRUG INTERACTIONS].


At the clinical dose range of 80 to 300 mg/m², the mean total clearance of paclitaxel ranges from 13 to 30 L/h/m², and the mean terminal half-life ranges from 13 to 27 hours.

After a 30-minute infusion of 260 mg/m² doses of ABRAXANE, the mean values for cumulative urinary recovery of unchanged drug (4%) indicated extensive non-renal clearance. Less than 1% of the total administered dose was excreted in urine as the metabolites 6α-hydroxypaclitaxel and 3'-p-hydroxypaclitaxel.

Fecal excretion was approximately 20% of the total dose administered.

Specific Populations

Pharmacokinetics in Hepatic Impairment

The effect of hepatic impairment on the pharmacokinetics of paclitaxel following ABRAXANE administration was studied in patients with advanced solid tumors. The results showed that mild hepatic impairment (total bilirubin > 1 to ≤ 1.5 x ULN, AST ≤ 10 x ULN, n=8) had no clinically important effect on pharmacokinetics of paclitaxel. Patients with moderate (total bilirubin > 1.5 to ≤ 3 x ULN, AST ≤ 10 x ULN, n=7) or severe (total bilirubin > 3 to ≤ 5 x ULN, n=5) hepatic impairment had a 22% to 26% decrease in the maximum elimination rate of paclitaxel and approximately 20% increase in mean paclitaxel AUC compared with patients with normal hepatic function (total bilirubin ≤ ULN, AST ≤ ULN, n=130). [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION and Use In Specific Populations].

Elimination of paclitaxel shows an inverse correlation with total bilirubin and a positive correlation with serum albumin. Pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic modeling indicates that there is no correlation between hepatic function (as indicated by the baseline albumin or total bilirubin level) and neutropenia after adjusting for ABRAXANE exposure. Pharmacokinetic data are not available for patients with total bilirubin > 5 x ULN or for patients with metastatic adenocarcinoma of the pancreas [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION and Use in Specific Populations].

Pharmacokinetics in Renal Impairment

The effect of pre-existing mild (creatinine clearance ≥ 60 to < 90 mL/min, n=61) or moderate (creatinine clearance ≥ 30 to < 60 mL/min, n=23) renal impairment on the pharmacokinetics of paclitaxel following ABRAXANE administration was studied in patients with advanced solid tumors. Mild to moderate renal impairment had no clinically important effect on the maximum elimination rate and systemic exposure (AUC and Cmax) of paclitaxel [see Use In Specific Populations].

Other Intrinsic Factors

Population pharmacokinetic analyses for ABRAXANE show that body weight (40 to 143 kg), body surface area (1.3 to 2.4 m²), gender, race (Asian vs. White), age (24 to 85 years) and type of solid tumors do not have a clinically important effect on the maximum elimination rate and systemic exposure (AUC and Cmax) of paclitaxel.

Pharmacokinetic Interactions between ABRAXANE and Carboplatin

Administration of carboplatin immediately after the completion of the ABRAXANE infusion to patients with NSCLC did not cause clinically meaningful changes in paclitaxel exposure. The observed mean AUCinf of free carboplatin was approximately 23% higher than the targeted value (6 min*mg/mL), but its mean half-life and clearance were consistent with those reported in the absence of paclitaxel.

Pharmacokinetic Interactions between ABRAXANE and Gemcitabine

Pharmacokinetic interactions between ABRAXANE and gemcitabine have not been studied in humans.

Clinical Studies

Metastatic Breast Cancer

Data from 106 patients accrued in two single arm open label studies and from 460 patients enrolled in a randomized comparative study were available to support the use of ABRAXANE in metastatic breast cancer.

Single Arm Open Label Studies

In one study, ABRAXANE was administered as a 30-minute infusion at a dose of 175 mg/m² to 43 patients with metastatic breast cancer. The second trial utilized a dose of 300 mg/m² as a 30-minute infusion in 63 patients with metastatic breast cancer. Cycles were administered at 3-week intervals. Objective responses were observed in both studies.

Randomized Comparative Study

This multicenter trial was conducted in 460 patients with metastatic breast cancer. Patients were randomized to receive ABRAXANE at a dose of 260 mg/m² given as a 30-minute infusion, or paclitaxel injection at 175 mg/m² given as a 3-hour infusion. Sixty-four percent of patients had impaired performance status (ECOG 1 or 2) at study entry; 79% had visceral metastases; and 76% had > 3 sites of metastases. Fourteen percent of the patients had not received prior chemotherapy; 27% had received chemotherapy in the adjuvant setting, 40% in the metastatic setting and 19% in both metastatic and adjuvant settings. Fifty-nine percent received study drug as second or greater than second-line therapy. Seventy-seven percent of the patients had been previously exposed to anthracyclines.

In this trial, patients in the ABRAXANE treatment arm had a statistically significantly higher reconciled target lesion response rate (the trial primary endpoint) of 21.5% (95% CI: 16.2% to 26.7%), compared to 11.1% (95% CI: 6.9% to 15.1%) for patients in the paclitaxel injection treatment arm. See Table 11. There was no statistically significant difference in overall survival between the two study arms.

Table 11: Efficacy Results from Randomized Metastatic Breast Cancer Trial

  ABRAXANE 260 mg/m² Paclitaxel Injection 175 mg/m²
Reconciled Target Lesion Response Rate (primary endpoint)a
All randomized patients Response Rate [95% CI] 50/233
[16.19% - 26.73%]
[6.94% - 15.09%]
p-valueb 0.003
Patients who had failed combination chemotherapy or relapsed within 6 months of adjuvant chemotherapyc Response Rate [95% CI] 20/129
[9.26% - 21.75%]
[3.85% - 12.94%]
a Reconciled Target Lesion Response Rate (TLRR) was the prospectively defined protocol specific endpoint, based on independent radiologic assessment of tumor responses reconciled with investigator responses (which also included clinical information) for the first 6 cycles of therapy. The reconciled TLRR was lower than the investigator Reported Response Rates, which are based on all cycles of therapy.
b From Cochran-Mantel-Haenszel test stratified by 1st line vs. > 1st line therapy.
c Prior therapy included an anthracycline unless clinically contraindicated.

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

A multicenter, randomized, open-label study was conducted in 1052 chemonaive patients with Stage IIIb/IV non-small cell lung cancer to compare ABRAXANE in combination with carboplatin to paclitaxel injection in combination with carboplatin as first-line treatment in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer. ABRAXANE was administered as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes at a dose of 100 mg/m² on Days 1, 8, and 15 of each 21-day cycle. Paclitaxel injection was administered as an intravenous infusion over 3 hours at a dose of 200 mg/m², following premedication. In both treatment arms carboplatin at a dose of AUC =6 mg•min/mL was administered intravenously on Day 1 of each 21-day cycle after completion of ABRAXANE/paclitaxel infusion. Treatment was administered until disease progression or development of an unacceptable toxicity. The major efficacy outcome measure was overall response rate as determined by a central independent review committee using RECIST guidelines (Version 1.0).

In the intent-to-treat (all-randomized) population, the median age was 60 years, 75% were men, 81% were White, 49% had adenocarcinoma, 43% had squamous cell lung cancer, 76% were ECOG PS 1, and 73% were current or former smokers. Patients received a median of 6 cycles of treatment in both study arms.

Patients in the ABRAXANE/carboplatin arm had a statistically significantly higher overall response rate compared to patients in the paclitaxel injection/carboplatin arm [(33% versus 25%) see Table 12]. There was no statistically significant difference in overall survival between the two study arms.

Table 12: Efficacy Results from Randomized Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Trial (Intent-to-Treat Population)

  ABRAXANE (100 mg/m² weekly) + carboplatin
Paclitaxel Injection (200 mg/m² every 3 weeks) + carboplatin
Overall Response Rate (ORR)
Confirmed complete or partial overall response, n (%) 170 (33%) 132 (25%)
  95% CI 28.6, 36.7 21.2, 28.5
  P-value (Chi-Square test) 0.005
Median DoR in months (95% CI) 6.9 (5.6, 8.0) 6.0 (5.6, 7.1)
Overall Response Rate by Histology
Carcinoma/Adenocarcinoma 66/254 (26%) 71/264 (27%)
Squamous Cell Carcinoma 94/229 (41%) 54/221 (24%)
Large Cell Carcinoma 3/9 (33%) 2/13 (15%)
Other 7/29 (24%) 5/33 (15%)
CI = confidence interval; DoR= Duration of response

Adenocarcinoma Of The Pancreas

A multicenter, multinational, randomized, open-label study was conducted in 861 patients comparing ABRAXANE plus gemcitabine versus gemcitabine monotherapy as first-line treatment of metastatic adenocarcinoma of the pancreas. Key eligibility criteria were Karnofsky Performance Status (KPS) ≥ 70, normal bilirubin level, transaminase levels ≤ 2.5 times the upper limit of normal (ULN) or ≤ 5 times the ULN for patients with liver metastasis, no prior cytotoxic chemotherapy in the adjuvant setting or for metastatic disease, no ongoing active infection requiring systemic therapy, and no history of interstitial lung disease. Patients with rapid decline in KPS ( ≥ 10%) or serum albumin ( ≥ 20%) during the 14 day screening period prior to study randomization were ineligible.

A total of 861 patients were randomized (1:1) to the ABRAXANE/gemcitabine arm (N=431) or to the gemcitabine arm (N=430). Randomization was stratified by geographic region (Australia, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, or North America), KPS (70 to 80 versus 90 to 100), and presence of liver metastasis (yes versus no). Patients randomized to ABRAXANE/gemcitabine received ABRAXANE 125 mg/m² as an intravenous infusion over 30-40 minutes followed by gemcitabine 1000 mg/m² as an intravenous infusion over 30-40 minutes on Days 1, 8, and 15 of each 28-day cycle. Patients randomized to gemcitabine received 1000 mg/m² as an intravenous infusion over 30-40 minutes weekly for 7 weeks followed by a 1-week rest period in Cycle 1 then as 1000 mg/m² on Days 1, 8 and 15 of each subsequent 28-day cycle. Patients in both arms received treatment until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity. The major efficacy outcome measure was overall survival (OS). Additional outcome measures were progression-free survival (PFS) and overall response rate (ORR), both assessed by independent, central, blinded radiological review using RECIST (version 1.0).

In the intent to treat (all randomized) population, the median age was 63 years (range 27-88 years) with 42% ≥ 65 years of age; 58% were men; 93% were White and KPS was 90-100 in 60%. Disease characteristics included 46% of patients with 3 or more metastatic sites; 84% of patients had liver metastasis; and the location of the primary pancreatic lesion was in the head of pancreas (43%), body (31%), or tail (25%).

Results for overall survival, progression-free survival, and overall response rate are shown in Table 13.

Table 13: Efficacy Results from Randomized Study in Patients with Adenocarcinoma of the Pancreas (ITT Population)

  ABRAXANE(125 mg/m²) and gemcitabine
(N = 431)
(N = 430)
Overall Survival
Number of deaths, n (%) 333 (77) 359 (83)
  Median Overall Survival (months) 8.5 6.7
  95% CI 7.9, 9.5 6.0, 7.2
  HR (95% CI) a 0.72 (0.62, 0.83)
P-valueb < 0.0001
Progression-free Survivalc
Death or progression, n (%) 277 (64) 265 (62)
  Median Progression-free Survival (months) 5.5 3.7
  95% CI 4.5, 5.9 3.6, 4.0
  HR (95% CI) a 0.69 (0.58, 0.82)
  P-valueb < 0.0001
Overall Response Ratec
Confirmed complete or partial overall response, n (%) 99 (23) 31 (7)
  95% CI 19.1, 27.2 5.0, 10.1
  P-value d < 0.0001
CI = confidence interval, HR= hazard ratio of ABRAXANE plus gemcitabine / gemcitabine, ITT = intent-to-treat population.
a Stratified Cox proportional hazard model.
b Stratified log-rank test stratified by geographic region (North America versus Others), Karnofsky performance score (70 to 80 versus 90 to 100), and presence of liver metastasis (yes versus no).
c Based on Independent Radiological Reviewer Assessment.
d Chi-square test.

In exploratory analyses conducted in clinically relevant subgroups with a sufficient number of subjects, the treatment effects on overall survival were similar to that observed in the overall study population.

Figure 1: Kaplan-Meier Curve of Overall Survival (Intent-to-treat Population)

Kaplan-Meier Curve of Overall Survival - Illustration

Last reviewed on RxList: 8/17/2015
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.

Abraxane - User Reviews

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