Purpose: The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), a protein tyrosine kinase expressed in many types of human cancers including colon and breast, has been strongly associated with tumor progression. Cetuximab, an IgG1 anti-EGFR chimeric mouse/human monoclonal antibody, has been proven to be effective in the treatment of advanced colon cancer. To date, there has not been a study to systematically evaluate the pharmacokinetics (PK) of Cetuximab in a preclinical model and to further explore any correlation of drug exposure between animal models and cancer patients. In the present study, we characterized the PK of Cetuximab in nude mice at efficacious dose levels and further compared the preclinical optimal dose and active plasma drug concentration with those determined in clinical studies.
Experimental design: The antitumor activity of Cetuximab was evaluated using the GEO human colon carcinoma xenografts implanted subcutaneously in nude mice. The drug was administered ip every 3 days for five total injections (inj) (q3dx5) at dose levels ranging from 1 mg/inj to 0.04 mg/inj. The plasma PK of Cetuximab was determined at dose levels of 1.0, 0.25, and 0.04 mg/inj with a single bolus iv or ip administration in nude mice. The tumoral PK of Cetuximab was determined at dose levels of 0.25, and 0.04 mg/inj with a single bolus ip administration in nude mice bearing GEO tumor xenografts. The plasma and tumoral levels of Cetuximab were quantitated by an ELISA assay.
Results: Cetuximab demonstrated a dose-dependent antitumor activity at dose levels of 0.25, 0.1, and 0.04 mg/inj, with a statistically significant tumor growth delay (in reaching a tumor target size of 1 gm) of 18 days (P < 0.001), 12.3 days (P < 0.01), and 10 days (P < 0.01) for 0.25, 0.1, and 0.04 mg/inj, respectively. A separate study employing the same treatment schedule showed that Cetuximab was equally active at dose levels ranging from 0.25 mg/inj to 1 mg/inj. Therefore, dose levels of Cetuximab from 1 mg/inj to 0.04 mg/inj can be considered to be within the efficacious range, while dose levels of 0.25 mg/inj or higher appeared to be optimal for the antitumor activity of Cetuximab in the GEO tumor model. When Cetuximab was given iv to mice, the elimination half life (t(1/2)) was 39.6, 37.8, and 42.2 h for doses of 1.0, 0.25, and 0.04 mg/inj, respectively, suggesting a similar disposition kinetics of Cetuximab within this dose range. The volume of distribution (V(d)) ranged from 0.062 l/kg to 0.070 l/kg, suggesting that Cetuximab is primarily confined to the plasma compartment with limited peripheral tissue distribution. Clearance (CL) was similar and no apparent PK saturation was observed across the dose ranging from 0.04 mg/inj to 1.0 mg/inj. When mice were administered with a single bolus ip administration at doses of 1, 0.25, and 0.04 mg/inj, the maximum plasma concentration (C(max)) was 407.6, 66.4, and 16.5 microg/ml. The area under the curve of plasma drug concentration (AUC) was 19212.4, 3182.4, and 534.5 microg/ml h, for 1.0, 0.25, and 0.04 mg/inj, respectively. The average steady state plasma concentration (C(ss avg)) for the multiple dosing schedule was estimated to be 73.1 microg/ml at 0.25 mg/inj and was considered as an active plasma drug concentration. The maximum tumoral concentration of Cetuximab was 2.6 and 0.53 ng/mg-tumor while the tumoral drug exposure was 112.6 and 18.3 ng/mg h for 0.25 and 0.04 mg/inj, respectively. The EGFR was estimated to be nearly completely occupied by Cetuximab at the optimal dose of 0.25 mg/inj.
Conclusion: In the present study, we compared the preclinical optimal dose and the corresponding active plasma concentration determined in mice with those being observed in cancer patients, i.e. 65-100 microg/ml. The preclinical optimal dose of 0.25 mg/inj was significantly lower than the current clinical dose. However, the active plasma concentration at 0.25 mg/inj is within the range of the active drug concentrations in cancer patients treated with Cetuximab under the current optimal dosing regimen. It appears that the active plasma drug concentration determined in preclinical model predicts better than the optimal preclinical dose for the clinical development of antibody drugs.