Background: Doxorubicin is a common anticancer agent used in the treatment of a number of neoplasms, with the lifetime dose limited due to the potential for cardiotoxocity. This has motivated efforts to develop optimal dosage regimes that maximize anti-tumor activity while minimizing cardiac toxicity, which is correlated with peak plasma concentration. Doxorubicin is characterized by poor penetration from tumoral vessels into the tumor mass, due to the highly irregular tumor vasculature. I model the delivery of a soluble drug from the vasculature to a solid tumor using a tumor cord model and examine the penetration of doxorubicin under different dosage regimes and tumor microenvironments.
Methods: A coupled ODE-PDE model is employed where drug is transported from the vasculature into a tumor cord domain according to the principle of solute transport. Within the tumor cord, extracellular drug diffuses and saturable pharmacokinetics govern uptake and efflux by cancer cells. Cancer cell death is also determined as a function of peak intracellular drug concentration.
Results: The model predicts that transport to the tumor cord from the vasculature is dominated by diffusive transport of free drug during the initial plasma drug distribution phase. I characterize the effect of all parameters describing the tumor microenvironment on drug delivery, and large intercapillary distance is predicted to be a major barrier to drug delivery. Comparing continuous drug infusion with bolus injection shows that the optimum infusion time depends upon the drug dose, with bolus injection best for low-dose therapy but short infusions better for high doses. Simulations of multiple treatments suggest that additional treatments have similar efficacy in terms of cell mortality, but drug penetration is limited. Moreover, fractionating a single large dose into several smaller doses slightly improves anti-tumor efficacy.
Conclusion: Drug infusion time has a significant effect on the spatial profile of cell mortality within tumor cord systems. Therefore, extending infusion times (up to 2 hours) and fractionating large doses are two strategies that may preserve or increase anti-tumor activity and reduce cardiotoxicity by decreasing peak plasma concentration. However, even under optimal conditions, doxorubicin may have limited delivery into advanced solid tumors.