Hyperthermic antiblastic isolated hepatic perfusion (IHP) with melphalan has been recently proposed as an alternative therapeutic option for patients with unresectable liver tumors. Although melphalan-heat antiblastic synergism is at a maximum at temperatures higher than 41°C, IHP has so far been performed in humans at lower temperatures. In this experimental work, we compared IHP under mild versus true hyperthermic conditions in terms of drug pharmacokinetics and liver function. Ten pigs were submitted to IHP with melphalan 1.5 mg/kg at a mean temperature of 40°C (group A, n = 5) or 42°C (group B, n = 5). After a 60-minute perfusion, a 15-minute washout was performed. Perfusate-to-plasma leakage was monitored using scintigraphy. Throughout perfusion, samples from the systemic blood, perfusate, and liver parenchyma were obtained to measure melphalan concentrations. Liver function was assessed using standard blood tests and the indocyanine green-based test. No deaths related to the IHP procedure were recorded. All animals had transient liver function impairment, with all liver function test results returning to normal within the observation period. At histologic examination, liver damage was similar under both hyperthermic conditions. Melphalan levels in the perfusate were not significantly different in the two study groups (the mean perfusate/plasma area under the curve from 0 to 60 minutes ratios were 463 and 501, respectively). These results correlated well with those obtained using the scintigraphic method. Liver drug concentrations remained unchanged after true hyperthermia IHP. Under true hyperthermic conditions, neither an increase in liver parenchyma toxicity nor changes in melphalan pharmacokinetics were observed. These findings support the use of true hyperthermia in the clinical setting to exploit fully the antitumor synergism between melphalan and heat.
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