The purpose of this study was to characterize the pharmacokinetics of gemtuzumab ozogamicin (Mylotarg; Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, St. Davids, PA) in patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in first relapse. Gemtuzumab ozogamicin is an antibody-chemotherapeutic conjugate characterized as antibody-targeted chemotherapy, consisting of an engineered human anti-CD33 antibody (hP67.6) linked to a potent cytotoxic agent, N-acetyl-gamma calicheamicin DMH. The pharmacokinetics of gemtuzumab ozogamicin was evaluated in 59 adult AML patients in first relapse, enrolled in a phase II study. Plasma was collected following each dose at specified times, and the pharmacokinetics was characterized by measures of hP67.6, total calicheamicin derivatives, and unconjugated calicheamicin derivatives. After administration of the first 9 mg/m2 dose of gemtuzumab ozogamicin, the pharmacokinetic parameters (mean +/- SD) of hP67.6 following the first dose were as follows: peak plasma concentration, 2.86 +/- 1.35 mg/L; AUC, 123 +/- 105 mg x h/L; t 1/2, 72.4 +/- 42.0 hours; and clearance, 0.265 +/- 0.229L/h. Increased concentrations were observed after the second dose and are believed to be due to a decrease in clearance by CD33-positive blast cells, a result of the reduced tumor burden following the first dose. The concentration profiles of calicheamicin followed the same time course as hP67.6, evidence that calicheamicin remained conjugated to the antibody and delivered to leukemic cells. No relationship was found between plasma concentration and response at the recommended dose. The pharmacokinetics of gemtuzumab ozogamicin has been characterized in AML patients receiving doses at the proposed therapeutic level.