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Clin Cancer Res. 2010 Jan 1;16(1):130-40. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-09-1321. Epub 2009 Dec 22.

P-glycoprotein (P-gp/Abcb1), Abcc2, and Abcc3 determine the pharmacokinetics of etoposide.

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  • 1Authors' Affiliations: Divisions of Molecular Biology and Clinical Chemistry, The Netherlands Cancer Institute, and Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, Slotervaart Hospital, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.



Despite the extensive use of etoposide for the treatment of different malignant neoplasms, its main pharmacokinetic determinants are not completely defined. We aimed to study the impact of P-glycoprotein (P-gp/ABCB1) and the multidrug resistance proteins ABCC2 (MRP2) and ABCC3 (MRP3) on the pharmacokinetics of etoposide.


Abcb1a/1b(-/-), Abcc2(-/-), Abcc3(-/-), Abcb1a/1b;Abcc2(-/-), and Abcc2;Abcc3(-/-) mice were used to investigate the separate and combined impact of P-gp, Abcc2, and Abcc3 on the in vivo behavior of etoposide.


P-gp restricted the oral (re)uptake of unchanged etoposide, and mediated its excretion across the gut wall. In contrast, hepatobiliary excretion was almost entirely dependent on Abcc2. Yet, complete loss of Abcc2 did not result in elevated liver or plasma concentrations of etoposide. Instead, Abcc2(-/-) mice displayed an increased hepatic formation of etoposide glucuronide, which was secreted via Abcc3 from the liver to the blood circulation and eliminated with the urine. Combination Abcc2;Abcc3(-/-) mice had highly increased accumulation of etoposide glucuronide in their livers, whereas both single knockouts did not, indicating that Abcc2 and Abcc3 provide alternative pathways for the hepatic elimination of etoposide glucuronide.


P-gp, ABCC2, and ABCC3 significantly affect the pharmacokinetics of etoposide and/or etoposide glucuronide. Variation in transporter expression or activity may explain the high variation in oral availability of etoposide (25-80%) among cancer patients. However, despite the fact that substantial variations in transporter activity can occur, we believe that cancer patients are often relatively protected from etoposide toxicity due to overlapping functions of these transporters in the elimination of etoposide.

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