CI-994 is a substituted benzamide derivative that has demonstrated significant antitumor activity in vitro and in vivo against a broad spectrum of murine and human tumor models. Its mechanism of action is still unknown but seems to be novel compared with existing anticancer drugs. We studied the plasma and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) pharmacokinetics of CI-994 in nonhuman primates. Three animals (total 4 doses) received an 80 mg/m2 dose of CI-994 administered over 20 min, and one animal received a dose of 100 mg/m2. Serial plasma and fourth ventricular CSF samples were obtained from 0 to 4320 min after administration of the 80-mg/m2 dose, and only plasma samples were obtained after the 100-mg/m2 dose. CI-994 was measured using a previously validated reverse-phase high-performance liquid chromatography assay. Elimination of CI-994 from plasma was triexponential (4 of 5 cases) or biexponential (1 of 5 cases), with a terminal half life (t1/2) of 7.4 +/- 2.5 h, volume of distribution of 15.5 +/- 1.8 L/m2, and clearance of 40 +/- 6 ml/min/m2. The area under the concentration-time curve (AUC) for the 80-mg/m2 dose was 125 +/- 17 microM x hr. CI-994 was first detected in CSF at the completion of the i.v. infusion. Peak concentrations of CI-994 in CSF were 3.4 +/- 0.3 microM. Elimination from CSF was monoexponential (2 of 4 cases) or biexponential (2 of 4 cases) with a terminal t1/2 in CSF of 12.9 +/- 2.5 h and AUC of 55 +/- 18 microM x hr. The AUC(CSF):AUCplasma ratio was 43 +/- 10%. This study demonstrates that there is excellent CSF penetration of CI-994 after i.v. administration. Additional studies are needed to evaluate the potential role of CI-994 in the treatment of central nervous system neoplasms.