Systemic Bioequivalence Is Unlikely to Equal Target Site Bioequivalence for Nanotechnology Oncologic Products

AAPS J. 2019 Feb 1;21(2):24. doi: 10.1208/s12248-019-0296-z.


Approval of generic drugs by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires the product to be pharmaceutically equivalent to the reference listed drug (RLD) and demonstrate bioequivalence (BE) in effectiveness when administered to patients under the conditions in the RLD product labeling. Effectiveness is determined by drug exposure at the target sites. However, since such measurement is usually unavailable, systemic exposure is assumed to equal target site exposure and systemic BE to equal target site BE. This assumption, while it often applies to small molecule drug products that are readily dissolved in biological fluids and systemically absorbed, is unlikely to apply to nanotechnology products (NP) that exist as heterogeneous systems and are subjected to dimension- and material-dependent changes. This commentary provides an overview of the intersecting and spatial-dependent processes and variables governing the delivery and residence of oncologic NP in solid tumors. In order to provide a quantitative perspective of the collective effects of these processes, we used quantitative systems pharmacology (QSP) multi-scale modeling to capture the physicochemical and biological events on several scales (whole-body, organ/suborgan, cell/subcellular, spatial locations, time). QSP is an emerging field that entails using modeling and computation to facilitate drug development; an analogous approach (i.e., model-informed drug development) is advocated by to FDA. The QSP model-based simulations illustrated that small changes in NP attributes (e.g., size variations during manufacturing, interactions with proteins in biological milieu) could lead to disproportionately large differences in target site exposure, rending systemic BE unlikely to equal target site BE.

Keywords: FDA; nanotechnology; quantitative systems pharmacology; systemic bioequivalence; target site bioequivalence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Drug Approval*
  • Drug Carriers / pharmacokinetics*
  • Drugs, Generic / pharmacokinetics*
  • Humans
  • Nanoparticles
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Particle Size
  • Therapeutic Equivalency
  • Tissue Distribution
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration / legislation & jurisprudence
  • United States Food and Drug Administration / standards*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Drug Carriers
  • Drugs, Generic