Pharmacokinetics of methotrexate-albumin conjugates in tumor-bearing rats

Anticancer Drugs. 1997 Oct;8(9):835-44. doi: 10.1097/00001813-199710000-00004.


Linking chemotherapeutic drugs to a macromolecular carrier system may enhance tumor targeting, reduce toxicity and overcome drug resistance mechanisms. As an elementary model to evaluate the pharmacological properties of macromolecular drug carrier systems we chose rat serum albumin (RSA) for carrier and methotrexate (MTX) as antineoplastic drug. The conjugation procedure yielded conjugates with an approximate 1:1 molar loading rate (MTX(1)-RSA). In the first part of the study a residualizing [111In]DTPA protein label was used for mapping in vivo the catabolic sites of the native carrier protein and of the MTX(1)-RSA drug conjugate in Walker 256 carcinosarcoma bearing rats. The tumor accumulation was about 14% of the injected dose for the RSA and MTX(1)-RSA tracers after 24 h. Tracer entrapment by organs with an active mononuclear phagocyte system was low (liver below 7% and spleen below 1.5% of the injected dose after 24 h). The 1:1 conjugation of MTX to RSA did not decisively alter the pharmacokinetic properties nor the tumor or tissue distribution of the native carrier protein RSA. In the second part of the study the different properties of the MTX(1)-RSA conjugate were compared with MTX in vivo. About 2 mg MTX/kg body weight either of the drug conjugate or of the original drug were injected after being additionally spiked with radiolabeled tracers. Plasma concentrations were simultaneously determined by immunological and radioactive means. After 24 h about 12% MTX(1)-RSA was found in circulation compared to 0.03% MTX. Favorable tumor accumulation rates of about 14% were achieved for MTX(1)-RSA versus 0.04% for MTX. About 45-fold more of the injected dose of [3H]MTX accumulated in the liver as compared to the tumor (1.5 versus 0.03%) after 24 h. Conjugation of MTX to RSA reversed this ratio in favor of the tumor to 1:1.4 (13.6 versus 9.6%). In conclusion, the potential therapeutic benefit of the MTX(1)-RSA conjugate lies in its very long tumor exposure time and its improved tumor accumulation rate compared to conventional MTX. In addition the conjugation to albumin might enhance the therapeutic effects over those achieved by long-term continuous infusion of MTX, as MTX(1)-RSA enters the cells by a different uptake mechanism. This might also help to circumvent MTX resistance mechanisms, such as a reduction in folate receptor numbers or impaired MTX polyglutamylation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / pharmacokinetics*
  • Area Under Curve
  • Carcinoma 256, Walker / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma 256, Walker / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Indicators and Reagents
  • Indium Radioisotopes
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Methotrexate / pharmacokinetics*
  • Pentetic Acid / pharmacokinetics
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Serum Albumin / pharmacokinetics*
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic
  • Indicators and Reagents
  • Indium Radioisotopes
  • Serum Albumin
  • methotrexate-serum albumin
  • Pentetic Acid
  • Methotrexate