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J Pharmacol Toxicol Methods. 2013 Jul-Aug;68(1):150-9. doi: 10.1016/j.vascn.2013.04.009. Epub 2013 May 6.

Effects of tyrosine kinase inhibitors on rat isolated heart function and protein biomarkers indicative of toxicity.

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Battelle, 505 King Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.



Cardiac toxicity, manifested as diminished contractility, ischemic heart disease, and heart failure is a major issue in drug safety. Concerns revolve around targeted drugs (TKIs) where contractility effects were not anticipated. The ability to predict cardiac toxicity early would help to de-risk drugs in development and prepare physicians to manage risk in the clinic. Issues with current preclinical studies include insufficient testing with informative, translatable models, and predictive biomarkers. The isolated heart model is amenable to multiple assessments which can be combined with current technologies to assess toxicity on a multi-scale level.


Rat isolated heart model was used to assess changes in left ventricular (LV) contractility and protein biomarkers BNP, IL6, TNFα, and cardiac troponins T (TnT) and I (TnI). Responses were assessed during perfusion with modified Henseleit Krebs (MHK), and 20 min concentration escalations of verapamil, carbonyl cyanide 4-(trifluoromethoxy)phenylhydrazone (FCCP), isoproterenol, or 20 min escalations bracketing clinical blood concentrations of sunitinib, sorafenib, and erlotinib. LV parameters and effluent for biomarkers were collected before and during escalating drug concentrations.


Verapamil reduced inotropy with no change in biomarkers, FCCP and isoproterenol reduced and increased heart function respectively and increased TnT and TNFα. Erlotinib had no significant effects on function or biomarkers. Sunitinib diminished function, increased TNFα at 0.1 μM, and increased TnT at higher concentrations. Sorafenib dose dependently increased TNFα beginning at 0.1 μM, reducing contractility and flow rate at 0.6 μM.


The ex-vivo assay is a sensitive and predictive model for assessing changes in heart function and biomarkers of toxicity and injury. This assay demonstrates the potential for sunitinib and sorafenib to cause cardiac toxicity in humans. Also, TNFα appears to be a biomarker in the heart prior to injury. Due to its versatility, the isolated heart assay has potential to fill gaps in cardiac safety testing early in drug development.


Biomarker; Contractility; Erlotinib; FCCP; Isolated heart; Isoproterenol; Rat; Sorafenib; Sunitinib; Verapamil

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