Midazolam as a phenotyping probe to predict sunitinib exposure in patients with cancer

Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 2014 Jan;73(1):87-96. doi: 10.1007/s00280-013-2322-7. Epub 2013 Oct 23.


Purpose: Patients treated with sunitinib show substantial inter-patient variability in drug exposure (~30-40 %), which is largely unexplained. Since sunitinib is metabolized by cytochrome P450(CYP)3A4, variability in the activity of this enzyme may explain a considerable proportion of this inter-patient variability. Midazolam is widely used as a phenotyping probe to assess CYP3A4-activity. The objective of this study was to prospectively evaluate the relationship between midazolam and sunitinib exposure. Additionally, the correlation between sunitinib trough levels and exposure and the influence of sunitinib on midazolam exposure was determined.

Methods: Thirteen patients treated with sunitinib in a 4 weeks "on"-2 weeks "off" regimen received twice 7.5 mg midazolam; once with and once without sunitinib. Steady-state sunitinib, its active metabolite SU12662 and midazolam exposures were determined.

Results: A significant correlation between midazolam exposure (AUC(0-7h)) and steady-state sunitinib and sunitinib + SU12662 exposure (AUC(0-24h)) was found (p = 0.006 and p = 0.0018, respectively); midazolam exposure explained 51 and 41 % of the inter-patient variability in sunitinib and sunitinib + SU12622 exposure. Furthermore, C trough was highly correlated (r(2) = 0.94) with sunitinib AUC(0-24h). Sunitinib decreased midazolam exposure with 24 % (p = 0.034).

Conclusion: Midazolam exposure is highly correlated with sunitinib exposure and explains a large proportion of the observed inter-patient variability in sunitinib pharmacokinetics. Consequently, midazolam could be used to identify patients that are at risk of under- or overtreatment, respectively, at the start of sunitinib therapy. Moreover, sunitinib and sunitinib + SU12662 trough levels are highly correlated with drug exposure and can thus be used in clinical practice to individualize sunitinib therapy. The decrease in midazolam exposure by sunitinib needs further investigation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacokinetics*
  • Area Under Curve
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP3A / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Indoles / pharmacokinetics*
  • Male
  • Midazolam / pharmacokinetics*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Phenotype
  • Prospective Studies
  • Pyrroles / pharmacokinetics*
  • Sunitinib


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Indoles
  • Pyrroles
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP3A
  • CYP3A4 protein, human
  • Midazolam
  • Sunitinib