Skeletal formula of altretamine
Ball-and-stick model of the altretamine molecule
Clinical data
Trade namesHexalen
Other names2,4,6-Tris(dimethylamino)-1,3,5-triazine
License data
  • AU: D
Routes of
Oral (capsules)
ATC code
Legal status
Legal status
Pharmacokinetic data
Protein binding94%
MetabolismExtensive liver
MetabolitesPentamethylmelamine, tetramethylmelamine
Elimination half-life4.7–10.2 hours
  • N2,N2,N4,N4,N6,N6-Hexamethyl-1,3,5-triazine-2,4,6-triamine
CAS Number
PubChem CID
CompTox Dashboard (EPA)
ECHA InfoCard100.010.391 Edit this at Wikidata
Chemical and physical data
Molar mass210.285 g·mol−1
3D model (JSmol)
  • n1c(nc(nc1N(C)C)N(C)C)N(C)C
  • InChI=1S/C9H18N6/c1-13(2)7-10-8(14(3)4)12-9(11-7)15(5)6/h1-6H3 checkY

Altretamine (trade name Hexalen), also called hexamethylmelamine, is an antineoplastic agent. It was approved by the U.S. FDA in 1990.


It is indicated for use as a single agent in the palliative treatment of patients with persistent or recurrent ovarian cancer following first-line therapy with cisplatin and/or alkylating agent-based combination.[1]

It is not considered a first-line treatment,[2] but it can be useful as salvage therapy.[3] It also has the advantage of being less toxic than other drugs used for treating refractory ovarian cancer.[4]


The precise mechanism by which altretamine exerts its anti-cancer effect is unknown but it is classified by MeSH as an alkylating antineoplastic agent.[5]

This unique structure is believed to damage tumor cells through the production of the weakly alkylating species formaldehyde, a product of CYP450-mediated N-demethylation. Administered orally, altretamine is extensively metabolized on first pass, producing primarily mono- and didemethylated metabolites. Additional demethylation reactions occur in tumor cells, releasing formaldehyde in situ before the drug is excreted in the urine. The carbinolamine (methylol) intermediates of CYP450-mediated metabolism also can generate electrophilic iminium species that are capable of reacting covalently with DNA guanine and cytosine residues as well as protein. Iminium-mediated DNA cross-linking and DNA-protein interstrand cross-linking, mediated through both the iminium intermediate and formaldehyde, have been demonstrated, although the significance of DNA cross-linking on altretamine antitumor activity is uncertain.[6]

Side effects

Side effects include nausea, vomiting, anemia and peripheral sensory neuropathy.[7]


Combination with pyridoxine (vitamin B6) decreases neurotoxicity but has been found to reduce the effectiveness of an altretamine/cisplatin regime.[8] MAO inhibitor can cause severe orthostatic hypotension when combined with altretamine; and cimetidine can increase its elimination half-life and toxicity.[7]

See also


  1. ^ "Hexalen (altretamine) Capsule. Human Prescription Drug Label". Eisai Inc. Retrieved 24 August 2016.
  2. ^ Keldsen N, Havsteen H, Vergote I, Bertelsen K, Jakobsen A (2003). "Altretamine (hexamethylmelamine) in the treatment of platinum-resistant ovarian cancer: a phase II study". Gynecol. Oncol. 88 (2): 118–22. doi:10.1016/S0090-8258(02)00103-8. PMID 12586589.
  3. ^ Chan JK, Loizzi V, Manetta A, Berman ML (2004). "Oral altretamine used as salvage therapy in recurrent ovarian cancer". Gynecol. Oncol. 92 (1): 368–71. doi:10.1016/j.ygyno.2003.09.017. PMID 14751188.
  4. ^ Malik IA (2001). "Altretamine is an effective palliative therapy of patients with recurrent epithelial ovarian cancer". Jpn. J. Clin. Oncol. 31 (2): 69–73. doi:10.1093/jjco/hye012. PMID 11302345.
  5. ^ Damia G, D'Incalci M (1995). "Clinical pharmacokinetics of altretamine". Clinical Pharmacokinetics. 28 (6): 439–48. doi:10.2165/00003088-199528060-00002. PMID 7656502.
  6. ^ Lemke, Thomas L.; Williams, David A., eds. (2008). Foye's Principles of Medicinal Chemistry (6th ed.). Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. ISBN 978-0-7817-6879-5.
  7. ^ a b Altretamine Monograph
  8. ^ Wiernik, P. H.; Yeap, B.; Vogl, S. E.; Kaplan, B. H.; Comis, R. L.; Falkson, G.; Davis, T. E.; Fazzini, E.; Cheuvart, B.; Horton, J. (1992). "Hexamethylmelamine and low or moderate dose cisplatin with or without pyridoxine for treatment of advanced ovarian carcinoma: A study of the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group". Cancer Investigation. 10 (1): 1–9. doi:10.3109/07357909209032783. PMID 1735009.