Abstract

BACKGROUND: Green tea has long been touted as a health promoting substance. The active chemical compounds in green tea are called polyphenols or catechins. Epigallocatechin gallate(EGCG) is the major catechin in green tea. We previously reported the in vitro ability of EGCG to induce apoptotic cell death in chronic lymphocytic leukemia(CLL) B-cells in vitro (Blood 104:788). After publication of our findings, clinical activity in individuals using over the counter green tea extracts were reported (Leuk Res 30:707). Based on this information, we opened a phase I/II trial of green tea extracts for patients with asymptomatic, early stage CLL in fall of 2005.

METHODS: The purpose of the phase I portion of this trial was to determine the optimal dose of EGCG in the Polyphenon E preparation for chronic daily administration and define tolerability in CLL patients. Previously untreated patients with asymptomatic, Rai stage 0–II CLL not currently meeting National Cancer Institute(NCI) Working Group(WG) Criteria for treatment were eligible for participation. Polyphenon E with a standardized dose of EGCG was obtained from NCI. The phase I portion of the trial was designed with 8 dose levels(range 400–2000 mg orally BID) using the standard 3 patient per dose level design. Patients remained on study up to 6 months. Grade 2 adverse events attributed to study treatment that did not respond to supportive care were considered dose limiting toxicity. The trial was designed to administer Polyphenon E in the fasting state. After accrual to dose levels 1 and 2, the U.S. FDA mandated all U.S. trials of Polyphenon E administer drug in the fed state. Accordingly, drug was administered in the fed state for dose levels 3–8. Trough plasma EGCG levels were measured 1 month after initiation of therapy. Response was classified using the NCI WG Criteria.

RESULTS: As of August 2007, 33 patients have been accrued to dose levels 1–8. The maximum tolerated dose(MTD) has not been reached. Side effects have generally been mild. The most common toxicities were nausea(grade 1: 42%; grade 2: 3%), elevation in SGOT (42%; all grade 1), and abdominal pain (36%; all grade 1). To date, no patient has had a sustained 50% reduction in both absolute lymphocyte count (ALC) and lymphadenopathy that would meet the NCI WG criteria for partial response. A majority of patients have had a reduction in ALC(Table). Among the 10 patients who had palpable adenopathy at study enrollment, 7 patients experienced at least a 50% reduction in the sum of the products of all nodal areas at some point during treatment. Trough plasma EGCG levels after 1 month of treatment ranged from 2.93974 ng/mL(median 40.5 ng/mL). Plasma levels did not clearly relate to the degree of reduction in ALC suggesting sensitivity to Polyphenon E may relate more to characteristics of the leukemic clone than plasma EGCG levels.

CONCLUSION: Daily oral EGCG in the Polyphenon E preparation was well tolerated by CLL patients in this phase I trial. The MTD has not been reached. As classified by the NCI WG criteria, no partial or complete remissions have been observed to date, however declines in ALC and lymphadenopathy have been observed in the majority of patients. The phase II portion of this trial will open at Mayo Clinic Fall 2007.

Best reduction in ALCn% of patients
At least 10% decline 25 76% 
At least 20% decline 14 42% 
At least 30% decline 24% 
At least 40% decline 12% 
At least 50% decline 6% 
Best reduction in ALCn% of patients
At least 10% decline 25 76% 
At least 20% decline 14 42% 
At least 30% decline 24% 
At least 40% decline 12% 
At least 50% decline 6% 

Author notes

Disclosure:Consultancy: Celgene (NE Kay). Research Funding: Bayer (TD Shanafelt & NE Kay); Hospira (NE Kay); Polyphenon E International (TD Shanafelt & NE Kay).