Pharmaceutical Medicine

, Volume 32, Issue 5, pp 335–341 | Cite as

Safety Pharmacology Study Results and their Impact on the Design of First-in-human Trials for Authorised Oncology Therapies

  • Jane O’Sullivan
  • Stefano Ponzano
  • Milton BonelliEmail author
Original Research Article



Safety pharmacology studies are conducted to elucidate possible safety risks on cardiovascular (CV), central nervous system (CNS) and respiratory systems, and are usually carried out prior to first-in-human (FIH) trials. These tests are either standalone tests, or have relevant endpoints integrated in repeat-dose toxicology studies.


To review safety pharmacology study results for authorised oncology therapies and to assess how these results have impacted the design of FIH trials of these agents.


Bearing in mind the 3Rs principle for animal use (reduction, refinement and replacement), the design of safety pharmacology studies and their outcome for 30 new anticancer medicinal products (both small molecules and biotechnology-derived products) authorised by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) between 2011 and 2015 was reviewed. The impact of the safety pharmacology study results on the design of the FIH trials was also investigated.


Our analysis shows that all CNS and respiratory safety pharmacology tests were negative, while for the CV system, 61% of small molecules had positive effects in vitro and/or in vivo and only one out of seven biotechnology-derived products had positive effects in vivo. Regarding the impact of safety pharmacology on clinical trial study design, CV safety pharmacology results for small molecules influenced FIH trial designs in 60% of cases.


Based on this subset of data in the oncology therapeutic area, results indicate that the use of safety pharmacology endpoints in repeat-dose toxicology tests could be further utilised as compared with stand-alone safety pharmacology studies, in particular for the CNS and respiratory systems.



The authors would like to thank Kevin Cunningham and Francesco Pignatti for their constructive comments.

Compliance with Ethical Standards


No external funding was used in the preparation of this manuscript. The contribution of JOS to this article relates to the period of employment in the Specialised Scientific Disciplines Department at the European Medicines Agency.

Conflict of interest

JOS, SP and MB declare that they have no conflicts of interest that might be relevant to the contents of this manuscript.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Supplementary material

40290_2018_246_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (240 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 240 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jane O’Sullivan
    • 1
  • Stefano Ponzano
    • 1
  • Milton Bonelli
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.European Medicines AgencyLondonUK

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