Body surface area as a determinant of pharmacokinetics and drug dosing

Invest New Drugs. 2001 May;19(2):171-7. doi: 10.1023/a:1010639201787.


Body surface area (BSA) was introduced into medical oncology in order to derive a safe starting dose for phase I studies of anticancer drugs from preclinical animal toxicology data. It is not clear however, as to why dosing by BSA was extended to the routine dosing of antineoplastic agents. Several formulas exist to estimate BSA, but the formula derived by DuBois and DuBois is the one used in adult medical oncology. This formula was derived based on data from only nine patients; subsequent attempts to validate the formula have found the DuBois formula to either over or underestimate the actual determined BSA. While cardiac output does correlate with BSA, the relationship between BSA and other physiologic measures relevant for drug metabolism and disposition, such as, renal and hepatic function, is weak or nonexistent. Further only epirubicin, etoposide, and carboplatin have been studied to determine if dosing by BSA would reduce interpatient variability, and none of these drugs were found to have significant relationships between their pharmacokinetics and BSA. Future clinical trials of new agents should not presume that dosing based on BSA reduces interpatient variability. Studies should examine the role, if any, BSA has in dosing new chemotherapeutic agents in initial phase I studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Anthropometry
  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacokinetics*
  • Area Under Curve
  • Body Surface Area*
  • Carboplatin / administration & dosage
  • Carboplatin / pharmacokinetics
  • Cardiac Output / physiology
  • Child
  • Docetaxel
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Etoposide / administration & dosage
  • Etoposide / pharmacokinetics
  • Humans
  • Kidney / physiology
  • Liver / physiology
  • Medical Oncology
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Paclitaxel / administration & dosage
  • Paclitaxel / analogs & derivatives
  • Paclitaxel / pharmacokinetics
  • Taxoids*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Taxoids
  • Docetaxel
  • Etoposide
  • Carboplatin
  • Paclitaxel