A phase II study of topical ceramides for cutaneous breast cancer

Aminah Jatoi, Vera J. Suman, Paul Schaefer, Margaret Block, Charles Loprinzi, Patrick Roche, Stuart Garneau, Roscoe Morton, Philip J. Stella, Steven R. Alberts, Mark Pittelkow, Jeff Sloan, Richard Pagano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Purpose. Short chain ceramides induce tumor cell apoptosis in preclinical models. Limited therapeutic options for patients with cutaneous breast cancer prompted the testing of these sphingolipids in patients with this disease. Patients and methods. Twenty-five patients with refractory, cutaneous breast cancer were treated twice a day with a 1% mixture of topical C2 and C6 ceramides administered in a 1:1 ratio. For the first 8 weeks, patients were not allowed to receive other antineoplastic therapy. In addition to tumor status and toxicity assessment throughout the trial, skin biopsies for evidence of apoptosis and quality of life questionnaires (FACT-BR) were completed at baseline and 1 month. Results. Only one patient manifested a partial response with topical ceramides, yielding a response rate of 4% (90% confidence interval 0, 17.6%). Median cutaneous progression-free survival was 2 months [4]. The topical ceramides were also well tolerated, with no grade 3 or 4 toxicity reported. None of the six patients who underwent serial skin biopsies showed increased tumor cell apoptosis morphologically or by the modified TUNEL assay. Conclusion. To our knowledge, this trial is one of the first clinical investigations of short chain ceramides. This trial's results are not promising enough to merit further study of ceramides in the manner prescribed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-104
Number of pages6
JournalBreast Cancer Research and Treatment
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2003


  • Apoptosis
  • Ceramides
  • Clinical trial
  • Cutaneous cancer
  • Quality of life

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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