A study looking at the way dactinomycin chemotherapy works in children and young people with cancer (PK 2006 07)

Cancer type:

Children's cancers





This study aimed to learn more about how a chemotherapy drug called dactinomycin works in children and young people with cancer.

Doctors use dactinomycin (also known as actinomycin D) to treat different types of childhood and adult cancers. In this study, the researchers wanted to find out what happens to dactinomycin in children and young people, when it enters the bloodstream.

Earlier research had shown that when children are given the same amount of dactinomycin, some had a different level of the drug in their blood than others. The researchers wanted to know why this happens. For example, your age or cancer type could affect how your body breaks down and gets rid of the drug.

Researchers also wanted to see if there is a link between the amount of dactinomycin in the blood, how well the treatment works and side effects.

The aims of the study were to

  • Measure levels of dactinomycin in the blood
  • Find out more about the side effects
  • Learn more about what happens to dactinomycin in the body, which may improve the way doctors use the drug in the future

Summary of results

The researchers found that there were variations in the levels of dactinomycin found in the children’s blood.

98 children and young people up to the age of 21 took part. The researchers collected blood samples from everybody and measured the amount of dactinomycin their blood. The medical name for this kind of study is pharmacokinetics Open a glossary item.

The researchers took blood samples before the children had dactinomycin, then every few hours after having the drug, and a final sample after 26 hours.

The study team have results for 98 children. When they looked at the levels of dactinomycin in their blood, the samples showed that bigger children had lower levels of dactinomycin than smaller children. Currently, doctors cap the dose they give to children over a certain weight. The researchers suggest that bigger children may benefit from a slightly higher dose than the capped dose that they currently have.

The most common side effects were a high temperature (fever) and a drop in blood cells causing an increased risk of infection, bleeding problems and tiredness.

The trial team concluded that a slightly higher dose of dactinomycin in bigger children should be looked at further in future clinical trials.

We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the trial. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (peer reviewed Open a glossary item) and published in a medical journal. The figures we quote above were provided by the trial team. We have not analysed the data ourselves.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Dr Gareth Veal
Professor Alan Boddy

Supported by

Cancer Research UK
Children's Cancer and Leukaemia Group (CCLG)
Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC)
NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer
Northern Institute for Cancer Research
The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Questions about cancer? Contact our information nurses

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:

Oracle 1100

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Rhys was only four years old when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour

A picture of Rhys

"He went through six operations and was placed on a clinical trial so he could try new treatments.”

Last reviewed:

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