Toward a new age of cellular pharmacokinetics in drug discovery

Drug Metab Rev. 2011 Aug;43(3):335-45. doi: 10.3109/03602532.2011.560607. Epub 2011 Mar 11.


Pharmacokinetics, pharmacology, and toxicology are the major determinants of the success or failure of candidates during drug development. Because inappropriate pharmacokinetics often leads to inefficacy, even toxicity, pharmacokinetics studies have been regarded as crucial components in drug preclinical and clinical research. However, new data increasingly reveal that drug concentrations in plasma or tissues cannot totally explain the efficacy of drug on the target organ. For most drugs that interact with targets localized in cells, intracellular penetration, accumulation, distribution, and elimination are important parameters governing the efficacy in the target cells. So, there is a pressing need to clarify the cellular pharmacokinetics and thus evaluate the efficacy of drugs in the target cells. This review provides a general overview regarding current knowledge about cellular pharmacokinetics in some specific cells and also summarizes the factors that can influence cellular pharmacokinetics. It concludes by discussing potential strategies for optimizing cellular pharmacokinetics and advocating that global cellular pharmacokinetics studies be conducted in future research toward improving drug efficacy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biological Transport / physiology
  • Drug Discovery*
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Enterocytes / cytology
  • Enterocytes / metabolism
  • Hepatocytes / cytology
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / metabolism*
  • Pharmacokinetics*


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations