The clinical pharmacology of etoposide and teniposide

Clin Pharmacokinet. 1987 Apr;12(4):223-52. doi: 10.2165/00003088-198712040-00001.


Etoposide and teniposide are semisynthetic derivatives of podophyllotoxin and are increasingly used in cancer medicine. Teniposide is more highly protein-bound than etoposide, and its uptake and binding to cells is also greater. Etoposide and teniposide are phase-specific cytotoxic drugs acting in the late S and early G2 phases of the cell cycle. They appear to act by causing breaks in DNA via an interaction with DNA topoisomerase II or by the formation of free radicals. Teniposide is more potent as regards the production of DNA damage and cytotoxicity. Most studies show a biexponential decay following intravenous administration of etoposide and teniposide. The terminal elimination half-life of etoposide is less than that of teniposide, and the plasma and renal clearances of etoposide are greater. The peak plasma concentrations of drug and the area under the concentration versus time curve are linearly related to the intravenous dose of both drugs. Considerable interpatient variability of pharmacokinetic parameters exists following intravenous etoposide and teniposide. Various metabolites of etoposide and teniposide have been identified but their detection and quantitation are disputed. Approximately 30 to 70% of a dose of etoposide is accounted for by excretion, whereas the figure appears to be only 5 to 20% for teniposide. The bioavailability of oral etoposide is about 50% but its absorption is not linear with increasing dose within the range in clinical use. There is considerable inter- and intrapatient variability in the pharmacokinetics of oral etoposide. There is no evidence of accumulation of etoposide and teniposide after multiple consecutive doses by the intravenous or oral routes. The exact roles of the liver and kidney in metabolism and excretion of etoposide and teniposide are uncertain. Etoposide has been shown to be a highly schedule-dependent drug in clinical studies. This together with the phase-specific action of etoposide and teniposide and their increasingly widespread use in cancer medicine make the clinical pharmacology of these drugs of great clinical importance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chemical Phenomena
  • Chemistry
  • Drug Stability
  • Etoposide / metabolism*
  • Etoposide / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Kinetics
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Podophyllotoxin / analogs & derivatives*
  • Teniposide / metabolism*
  • Teniposide / pharmacology


  • Etoposide
  • Teniposide
  • Podophyllotoxin