Comparison between a high-resolution single-stage Orbitrap and a triple quadrupole mass spectrometer for quantitative analyses of drugs

Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom. 2012 Mar 15;26(5):499-509. doi: 10.1002/rcm.6121.


The capabilities of a high-resolution (HR), accurate mass spectrometer (Exactive-MS) operating in full scan MS mode was investigated for the quantitative LC/MS analysis of drugs in patients' plasma samples. A mass resolution of 50,000 (FWHM) at m/z 200 and a mass extracted window of 5 ppm around the theoretical m/z of each analyte were used to construct chromatograms for quantitation. The quantitative performance of the Exactive-MS was compared with that of a triple quadrupole mass spectrometer (TQ-MS), TSQ Quantum Discovery or Quantum Ultra, operating in the conventional selected reaction monitoring (SRM) mode. The study consisted of 17 therapeutic drugs including 8 antifungal agents (anidulafungin, caspofungin, fluconazole, itraconazole, hydroxyitraconazole posaconazole, voriconazole and voriconazole-N-oxide), 4 immunosuppressants (ciclosporine, everolimus, sirolimus and tacrolimus) and 5 protein kinase inhibitors (dasatinib, imatinib, nilotinib, sorafenib and sunitinib). The quantitative results obtained with HR-MS acquisition show comparable detection specificity, assay precision, accuracy, linearity and sensitivity to SRM acquisition. Importantly, HR-MS offers several benefits over TQ-MS technology: absence of SRM optimization, time saving when changing the analysis from one MS to another, more complete information of what is in the samples and easier troubleshooting. Our work demonstrates that U/HPLC coupled to Exactive HR-MS delivers comparable results to TQ-MS in routine quantitative drug analyses. Considering the advantages of HR-MS, these results suggest that, in the near future, there should be a shift in how routine quantitative analyses of small molecules, particularly for therapeutic drugs, are performed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Antifungal Agents / blood*
  • Calibration
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid / methods
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / blood*
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / blood*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Antifungal Agents
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors