Cancers (Nov 2020)

Epithelial Transfer of the Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors Erlotinib, Gefitinib, Afatinib, Crizotinib, Sorafenib, Sunitinib, and Dasatinib: Implications for Clinical Resistance

  • Richard J. Honeywell,
  • Ietje Kathmann,
  • Elisa Giovannetti,
  • Carmelo Tibaldi,
  • Egbert F. Smit,
  • Maria N. Rovithi,
  • Henk M.W. Verheul,
  • Godefridus J. Peters

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 12, no. 3322
p. 3322


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Background: tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) inhibit phosphorylation of signaling proteins. TKIs often show large variations in the clinic due to poor pharmacology, possibly leading to resistance. We compared gut absorption of inhibitors of epidermal growth factor receptor (erlotinib, gefitinib, and afatinib), ALK-cMET (crizotinib), PDGFR/BCR-Abl (dasatinib), and multikinase inhibitors (sunitinib and sorafenib). In clinical samples, we measured the disposition of each compound within various blood compartments. Methods: we used an optimized CaCo2 gut epithelial model to characterize 20 µM TKI absorption. The apical/basolateral transfer is considered to represent the gut/blood transfer. Drugs were measured using LC-MS/MS. Results: sorafenib and sunitinib showed the highest apical/basolateral transfer (Papp 14.1 and 7.7 × 10−6 cm/s, respectively), followed by dasatinib (3.4), afatinib (1.5), gefitinib (0.38), erlotinib (0.13), and crizotinib (n.d.). However, the net absorptions for dasatinib, afatinib, crizotinib, and erlotinib were highly negative (efflux ratios >5) or neutral/negative, sorafenib (0.86), gefitinib (1.0), and sunitinib (1.6). A high negative absorption may result in resistance because of a poor exposure of tissues to the drug. Accumulation of the TKIs at the end of the transfer period (A->B) was not detectable for erlotinib, very low for afatinib 0.45 pmol/μg protein), followed by gefitinib (0.79), dasatinib (1.1), sorafenib (1.65), and crizotinib (2.11), being highest for sunitinib (11.9). A similar pattern was found for accumulation of these drugs in other colon cell lines, WiDr and HT29. In clinical samples, drugs accumulated consistently in red blood cells; blood to plasma ratios were all > 3 (sorafenib) or over 30 for erlotinib. Conclusions: TKIs are consistently poorly absorbed, but accumulation in red blood cells seems to compensate for this.