Background: Cryptococcal meningitis has high mortality. Flucytosine is a key treatment but is expensive and rarely available. The anti-cancer agent tamoxifen has synergistic anti-cryptococcal activity with amphotericin in vitro. It is off-patent, cheap, and widely available. We performed a trial to determine its therapeutic potential.Methods:Open label randomized controlled trial. Participants received standard care - amphotericin combined with fluconazole for the first two weeks - or standard care plus tamoxifen 300mg/day. The primary end point was Early Fungicidal Activity (EFA) - the rate of yeast clearance from cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Trial registration https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03112031 .Results: 50 patients were enrolled, (median age 34 years, 35 male). Tamoxifen had no effect on EFA (- 0.48log10 colony-forming units/mL/CSF control arm versus -0.49 tamoxifen arm, difference - 0.005log10CFU/ml/day, 95%CI: -0.16, 0.15, P=0.95). Tamoxifen caused QTc prolongation.Conclusion: High dose tamoxifen does not increase the clearance rate of Cryptococcus from CSF. Novel, affordable therapies are needed.Funding:The trial was funded through the Wellcome Trust Asia Programme Vietnam Core Grant 106680 and a Wellcome Trust Intermediate Fellowship to JND grant number WT097147MA.
Department of Tropical Medicine, Cho Ray Hospital, Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam.