Fate of inhaled monoclonal antibodies after the deposition of aerosolized particles in the respiratory system

J Control Release. 2014 Dec 28;196:344-54. doi: 10.1016/j.jconrel.2014.10.003. Epub 2014 Oct 17.


Monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) are usually delivered systemically, but only a small proportion of the drug reaches the lung after intravenous injection. The inhalation route is an attractive alternative for the local delivery of mAbs to treat lung diseases, potentially improving tissue concentration and exposure to the drug while limiting passage into the bloodstream and adverse effects. Several studies have shown that the delivery of mAbs or mAb-derived biopharmaceuticals via the airways is feasible and efficient, but little is known about the fate of inhaled mAbs after the deposition of aerosolized particles in the respiratory system. We used cetuximab, an anti-EGFR antibody, as our study model and showed that, after its delivery via the airways, this mAb accumulated rapidly in normal and cancerous tissues in the lung, at concentrations twice those achieved after intravenous delivery, for early time points. The spatial distribution of cetuximab within the tumor was heterogeneous, as reported after i.v. injection. Pharmacokinetic (PK) analyses were carried out in both mice and macaques and showed aerosolized cetuximab bioavailability to be lower and elimination times shorter in macaques than in mice. Using transgenic mice, we showed that FcRn, a key receptor involved in mAb distribution and PK, was likely to make a greater contribution to cetuximab recycling than to the transcytosis of this mAb in the airways. Our results indicate that the inhalation route is potentially useful for the treatment of both acute and chronic lung diseases, to boost and ensure the sustained accumulation of mAbs within the lungs, while limiting their passage into the bloodstream.

Keywords: FcRn; Monoclonal antibodies; Pharmacokinetics; Pulmonary delivery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Aerosols
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / administration & dosage*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / pharmacokinetics*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / administration & dosage
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / pharmacokinetics
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / therapeutic use
  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cetuximab
  • Drug Delivery Systems
  • Female
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / genetics
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Macaca fascicularis
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mice, Nude
  • Receptors, Fc / genetics
  • Respiratory System / metabolism*


  • Aerosols
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • Receptors, Fc
  • Cetuximab
  • Fc receptor, neonatal