Muramyl tripeptide-phosphatidyl ethanolamine encapsulated in liposomes (L-MTP-PE) in the treatment of osteosarcoma.
Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) has been used for decades as an immune stimulant to treat cancer. Early work by Fidler and Kleinerman identified muramyl dipeptide (MDP) as a critical component of the BCG cell wall which retained most of the immunostimulatory properties of the native BCG. Addition of a peptide to MDP resulted in muramyl tripeptide (MTP) which allowed incorporation into liposomal membranes. The resulting pharmaceutical, liposomal muramyl tripeptide phosphatidyl ethanolamine (L-MTP-PE or mifamurtide) showed activity in preclinical models of human cancers. Phase I studies documented the safety of the compound for human administration. These trials did not reach a maximally tolerated dose (MTD), and the dose chosen for phase II trials was a biologically optimized dose, not an MTD. Phase II studies showed decreased risk of further recurrence in patients who received mifamurtide after surgical ablation of metastatic osteosarcoma. A phase III prospective randomized trial demonstrated a statistically significant reduction in the risk of death from osteosarcoma when MTP was added to systemic chemotherapy for the treatment of localized osteosarcoma. The same trial allowed treatment of patients who presented with initially metastatic disease. While the overall and event-free survival was improved in patients with metastatic osteosarcoma who received L-MTP-PE, the sample size was small and the improvement did not achieve conventional statistical significance. From 2008 to 2012, patients with metastatic and recurrent osteosarcoma were given L-MTP-PE in an expanded access trial, and the results suggest a decreased risk of subsequent recurrence and death with the inclusion of L-MTP-PE in the treatment strategy for these high-risk patients.