The pharmacokinetic behavior of vincristine sulfate (VINC) following administration of vincristine sulfate liposome injection (VSLI), 0.16 mg/ml, as an intravenous infusion over 60 min in 24 of 25 patients enrolled in a phase I clinical study of this drug is described. Plasma samples for determination of the pharmacokinetic behavior of VINC were collected during the infusion at 15, 30 and 60 min as well as at 2, 4, 8, 12, 48 and 72 h postinfusion. Total VINC concentration was determined using a validated high-performance liquid chromatographic (HPLC) assay. Patients receiving doses of 0.5 to 1.5 mg/m2 VSLI did not provide useful pharmacokinetic data at late time-points owing to the limit of quantitation of the HPLC assay (28.6 ng/ml). Sufficient concentration-time data were available for seven of the patients receiving doses of VSLI from 2.0 to 2.8 mg/m2 for compartmental modelling. A two-compartment open model (PCNONLIN Model 10) was the best fit for the observed VINC plasma data for these patients. The mean maximum observed concentration values were significantly greater for patients receiving VSLI at 2.8 mg/m2 (2260 +/- 212 ng/ml, n = 2) than for those receiving 2.0 mg/m2 and 2.4 mg/m2 (891 +/- 671 ng/ml, n = 6; 679 +/- 634 ng/ml, n = 6, respectively). No significant differences were observed in maximum concentration values between patients at 2.0 mg/m2 and those at 2.4 mg/m2. A trend towards higher parametric AUC (0 to infinity) values with increasing dose (on a milligram per meter squared basis) was observed but statistical significance was not reached. Comparison of the pharmacokinetic behavior of VSLI observed in this study with nonencapsulated VINC demonstrated that (1) the variability observed for VSLI pharmacokinetic parameters was similar to nonencapsulated VINC, (2) although variability in absolute concentration was observed between patients, the behavior of VSLI in individual patients followed a two- rather than a three-compartment open model, and (3) VINC plasma concentrations were significantly greater following administration of VSLI than described for nonencapsulated VINC. Overall, the results for patients treated with VSLI from 2.0 to 2.8 mg/m2 suggest that this formulation protects VINC from the early phase of rapid elimination seen with nonencapsulated drug, resulting in significantly elevated VINC plasma concentrations over extended periods of time.