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Leukine (Sargramostim) - Description and Clinical Pharmacology


A Recombinant GM-CSF—Yeast-Expressed


LEUKINE® (sargramostim) is a recombinant human granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor (rhu GM-CSF) produced by recombinant DNA technology in a yeast (S. cerevisiae) expression system. GM-CSF is a hematopoietic growth factor which stimulates proliferation and differentiation of hematopoietic progenitor cells. LEUKINE is a glycoprotein of 127 amino acids characterized by three primary molecular species having molecular masses of 19,500, 16,800 and 15,500 daltons. The amino acid sequence of LEUKINE differs from the natural human GM-CSF by a substitution of leucine at position 23, and the carbohydrate moiety may be different from the native protein. Sargramostim has been selected as the proper name for yeast-derived rhu GM-CSF.

The liquid LEUKINE presentation is formulated as a sterile, preserved (1.1% benzyl alcohol), injectable solution (500 mcg/mL) in a vial. Lyophilized LEUKINE is a sterile, white, preservative-free powder (250 mcg) that requires reconstitution with 1 mL Sterile Water for Injection, USP or 1 mL Bacteriostatic Water for Injection, USP. Liquid LEUKINE has a pH range of 6.7 – 7.7 and lyophilized LEUKINE has a pH range of 7.1 – 7.7.

Liquid LEUKINE and reconstituted lyophilized LEUKINE are clear, colorless liquids suitable for subcutaneous injection (SC) or intravenous infusion (IV). Liquid LEUKINE contains 500 mcg (2.8 × 106 IU/mL) sargramostim and 1.1% benzyl alcohol in a 1 mL solution. The vial of lyophilized LEUKINE contains 250 mcg (1.4 × 106 IU/vial) sargramostim. The liquid LEUKINE vial and reconstituted lyophilized LEUKINE vial also contain 40 mg/mL mannitol, USP; 10 mg/mL sucrose, NF; and 1.2 mg/mL tromethamine, USP, as excipients. Biological potency is expressed in International Units (IU) as tested against the WHO First International Reference Standard. The specific activity of LEUKINE is approximately 5.6 × 106 IU/mg.



GM-CSF belongs to a group of growth factors termed colony stimulating factors which support survival, clonal expansion, and differentiation of hematopoietic progenitor cells. GM-CSF induces partially committed progenitor cells to divide and differentiate in the granulocyte-macrophage pathways which include neutrophils, monocytes/macrophages and myeloid-derived dendritic cells.

GM-CSF is also capable of activating mature granulocytes and macrophages. GM-CSF is a multilineage factor and, in addition to dose-dependent effects on the myelomonocytic lineage, can promote the proliferation of megakaryocytic and erythroid progenitors.1 However, other factors are required to induce complete maturation in these two lineages. The various cellular responses (i.e., division, maturation, activation) are induced through GM-CSF binding to specific receptors expressed on the cell surface of target cells.2

In vitro Studies of LEUKINE in Human Cells

The biological activity of GM-CSF is species-specific. Consequently, in vitro studies have been performed on human cells to characterize the pharmacological activity of LEUKINE. In vitro exposure of human bone marrow cells to LEUKINE at concentrations ranging from 1–100 ng/mL results in the proliferation of hematopoietic progenitors and in the formation of pure granulocyte, pure macrophage and mixed granulocytemacrophage colonies.3 Chemotactic, anti-fungal and anti-parasitic4 activities of granulocytes and monocytes are increased by exposure to LEUKINE in vitro. LEUKINE increases the cytotoxicity of monocytes toward certain neoplastic cell lines3 and activates polymorphonuclear neutrophils to inhibit the growth of tumor cells.

In vivo Primate Studies of LEUKINE

Pharmacology/toxicology studies of LEUKINE were performed in cynomolgus monkeys. An acute toxicity study revealed an absence of treatment-related toxicity following a single IV bolus injection at a dose of 300 mcg/kg. Two subacute studies were performed using IV injection (maximum dose 200 mcg/kg/day × 14 days) and subcutaneous injection (SC) (maximum dose 200 mcg/kg/day × 28 days). No major visceral organ toxicity was documented. Notable histopathology findings included increased cellularity in hematologic organs and heart and lung tissues. A dose-dependent increase in leukocyte count, which consisted primarily of segmented neutrophils, occurred during the dosing period; increases in monocytes, basophils, eosinophils and lymphocytes were also noted. Leukocyte counts decreased to pretreatment values over a 1–2 week recovery period.


Pharmacokinetic profiles have been analyzed in controlled studies of 24 normal male volunteers. Liquid and lyophilized LEUKINE, at the recommended dose of 250 mcg/m2, have been determined to be bioequivalent based on the statistical evaluation of AUC.5

When LEUKINE (either liquid or lyophilized) was administered IV over two hours to normal volunteers, the mean beta half-life was approximately 60 minutes. Peak concentrations of GM-CSF were observed in blood samples obtained during or immediately after completion of LEUKINE infusion. For liquid LEUKINE, the mean maximum concentration (Cmax) was 5.0 ng/mL, the mean clearance rate was approximately 420 mL/min/m2 and the mean AUC (0–inf) was 640 ng/mL•min. Corresponding results for lyophilized LEUKINE in the same subjects were mean Cmax of 5.4 ng/mL, mean clearance rate of 431 mL/min/m2, and mean AUC (0–inf) of 677 ng/mL•min. GM-CSF was last detected in blood samples obtained at three or six hours.

When LEUKINE (either liquid or lyophilized) was administered SC to normal volunteers, GM-CSF was detected in the serum at 15 minutes, the first sample point. The mean beta half-life was approximately 162 minutes. Peak levels occurred at one to three hours post injection, and LEUKINE remained detectable for up to six hours after injection. The mean Cmax was 1.5 ng/mL. For liquid LEUKINE, the mean clearance was 549 mL/min/m2 and the mean AUC (0–inf) was 549 ng/mL•min. For lyophilized LEUKINE, the mean clearance was 529 mL/min/m2 and the mean AUC (0–inf) was 501 ng/mL•min.

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