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Clin Pharmacokinet. 1990 May;18(5):365-80.

Pharmacokinetics and metabolism of mitoxantrone. A review.

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Department of Haematology, Medizinische Universit├Ątsklinik, T├╝bingen, Federal Republic of Germany.


Mitoxantrone, a cytotoxic anthracenedione derivative, has given clinical evidence of beneficial activity in breast cancer, lymphoma and leukaemia. Several different mechanisms of action have been suggested to account for this. In addition to intercalation, biological effects such as electrostatic interactions with DNA, DNA-protein cross-links, immunosuppressive activities, inhibition of topoisomerase II, prostaglandin biosynthesis and calcium release have been described. Various methods of drug monitoring in biological fluids and tissues are available: the highest sensitivity has been achieved with high performance liquid chromatography with electrochemical detection, radioimmunoassay and enzyme linked immunosorbent assay. Early pharmacokinetic studies of mitoxantrone in experimental animals using radioactive material showed an extensive tissue distribution and a long terminal plasma half-life. The best fit for the plasma concentration-time curve in humans is achieved in a 3-compartment model. All studies reported a short absorption half-life of between 4.1 and 10.7 minutes, with the distribution phase being between 0.3 and 3.1 hours. In contrast, the values of the terminal half-life are quite variable, ranging from 8.9 hours to 9 days. Differences might be attributed to assay sensitivity, number and weighting of data points beyond 24 hours and coadministration drugs. Many studies showed a very large volume of distribution with sequestration of mitoxantrone in a deep tissue compartment. In autopsy studies, relatively high tissue concentrations have been measured in liver, bone marrow, heart, lung, spleen and kidney. Bile is the major route for the elimination of mitoxantrone, with lesser amounts excreted in the urine. Several metabolites have been separated, 2 of which were identified as the monocarboxylic and dicarboxylic acid derivatives. Mitoxantrone is usually administered by rapid intravenous infusion at 3-weekly intervals; other regimens include continuous infusion, daily repeated doses or weekly administration. In peritoneal carcinosis, the pharmacological advantage of intraperitoneal administration is clear. The optimal regimen for different disease categories with respect to efficacy and side-effects remains to be determined in future clinical trials.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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