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Int J Cancer. 2012 Jan 1;130(1):223-33. doi: 10.1002/ijc.26000. Epub 2011 Apr 7.

Brain accumulation of sunitinib is restricted by P-glycoprotein (ABCB1) and breast cancer resistance protein (ABCG2) and can be enhanced by oral elacridar and sunitinib coadministration.

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Division of Molecular Biology, The Netherlands Cancer Institute, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Sunitinib is an orally active, multitargeted tyrosine kinase inhibitor which has been used for the treatment of metastatic renal cell carcinoma and imatinib-resistant gastrointestinal stromal tumors. We aimed to investigate the in vivo roles of the ATP-binding cassette drug efflux transporters ABCB1 and ABCG2 in plasma pharmacokinetics and brain accumulation of oral sunitinib, and the feasibility of improving sunitinib kinetics using oral coadministration of the dual ABCB1/ABCG2 inhibitor elacridar. We used in vitro transport assays and Abcb1a/1b(-/-) , Abcg2(-/-) and Abcb1a/1b/Abcg2(-/-) mice to study the roles of ABCB1 and ABCG2 in sunitinib disposition. In vitro, sunitinib was a good substrate of murine (mu)ABCG2 and a moderate substrate of human (hu)ABCB1 and huABCG2. In vivo, the systemic exposure of sunitinib after oral dosing (10 mg kg(-1) ) was unchanged when muABCB1 and/or muABCG2 were absent. Brain accumulation of sunitinib was markedly (23-fold) increased in Abcb1a/b/Abcg2(-/-) mice, but only slightly (2.3-fold) in Abcb1a/b(-/-) mice, and not in Abcg2(-/-) mice. Importantly, a clinically realistic coadministration of oral elacridar and oral sunitinib to wild-type mice resulted in markedly increased sunitinib brain accumulation, equaling levels in Abcb1a/1b/Abcg2(-/-) mice. This indicates complete inhibition of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) transporters. High-dose intravenous sunitinib could saturate BBB muABCG2, but not muABCB1A, illustrating a dose-dependent relative impact of the BBB transporters. Brain accumulation of sunitinib is effectively restricted by both muABCB1 and muABCG2 activity. Complete inhibition of both transporters, leading to markedly increased brain accumulation of sunitinib, is feasible and safe with a clinically realistic oral elacridar/sunitinib coadministration.

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