BackgroundCryptococcal meningitis has high mortality. Flucytosine is a key treatment but is expensive and rarely available. The anticancer 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.MethodsOpen label randomized controlled trial. Participants received standard care - amphotericin combined with fluconazole for the first 2 weeks - or standard care plus tamoxifen 300 mg/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.ResultsFifty 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.ConclusionsHigh-dose tamoxifen does not increase the clearance rate of Cryptococcus from CSF. Novel, affordable therapies are needed.FundingThe 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.