Role of hexamethylmelamine in the treatment of ovarian cancer: Where is the needle in the haystack?

B. J. Foster, K. Clagett-Carr, S. Marsoni, R. Simon, B. Leyland-Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hexamethylmelamine (HMM) was selected for development as an antineoplastic agent because it demonstrated activity in a variety of preclinical tumor models. Its mechanism of action is unknown. It has been used in clinical trials since 1964. The clinical toxic effects have consisted of signs and symptoms involving the following systems: gastrointestinal (nausea, vomiting, anorexia), hematologic (leukopenia, mild anemia), and neurologic (critical depression, hallucinations, peripheral motor and sensory deficits). Antitumor activity against advanced ovarian cancer was demonstrated in phase I trails and the drug was quickly incorporated into trials which utilize drug combinations. The majority of these have consisted of phase II trials without an identified control population. As might be predicted, all of the HMM-containing combinations are active. However, the contribution of HMM to the antitumor activity of the combination remains conjectural. Thus, in spite of > 15 years of clinical trials with a drug that has single-agent activity, the questions regarding the role of HMM in the treatment of ovarian cancer remain unanswered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1003-1014
Number of pages12
JournalCancer Treatment Reports
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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