The role of human cytochrome P450 enzymes in the metabolism of anticancer agents: implications for drug interactions

Br J Clin Pharmacol. 1995 Dec;40(6):523-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2125.1995.tb05796.x.


1. Little information is available about the pharmacokinetic interactions of anticancer drugs in man. However, clinically significant drug interactions do occur in cancer chemotherapy, and it is likely that important interactions have not been recognized. 2. Specific cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes have been recently shown to be involved in the metabolism of several essential anticancer agents. In particular, enzymes of the CYP3A subfamily play a role in the metabolism of many anticancer drugs, including epipodophyllotoxins, ifosphamide, tamoxifen, taxol and vinca alkaloids. CYP3A4 has been shown to catalyse the activation of the prodrug ifosphamide, raising the possibility that ifosphamide could be activated in tumour tissues containing this enzyme. 3. As examples of recently found, clinically significant interactions, cyclosporin considerably increases plasma doxorubicin and etoposide concentrations. Although cyclosporin and calcium channel blockers may influence the pharmacokinetics of certain anticancer agents by inhibiting their CYP3A mediated metabolism, it is more likely that these P-glycoprotein inhibitors inhibit P-glycoprotein mediated drug elimination. 4. Appropriate caution should be exercised when combining P-glycoprotein inhibitors and potential CYP3A inhibitors with cancer chemotherapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / metabolism*
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / metabolism
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP2E1
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / metabolism*
  • Drug Interactions
  • Humans
  • Mixed Function Oxygenases / metabolism


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System
  • Mixed Function Oxygenases
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP2E1