Induction of apoptosis by idarubicin: How important is the plasma peak?

F. Gieseler*, M. Clark, K. Stiebeling, M. Puschmann, S. Valsamas

*Corresponding author for this work
7 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: It is still not clear whether a high plasma peak or a prolonged plasma presence of the drug is optimal for chemotherapy with anthracyclines. A high plasma peak seems to correlate with the liberation of oxygen radicals and cumulative delayed cardiotoxicity, and therefore, should be avoided. On the other hand, its role in attaining the desired therapeutic effect, i.e. induction of apoptosis in tumor cells, has not been clearly elucidated. Methods: Idarubicin is the only anthracycline that can be applied orally. We measured the DNA-binding of idarubicin and idarubicinol and the induced apoptosis in the human promyelocytic HL-60 leukemia cell line. Various pharmacokinetic profiles, with and without clinically relevant peak concentrations, were simulated in vitro. Results: The concentration necessary for maximal DNA-binding and subsequent induction of apoptosis was 1.5 μg/ml for 20 minutes which is well above the plasma concentration achievable in therapy. A plateau of apoptosis was observed after 90 minutes of incubation; a prolongation above 90 minutes did not increase the rate of apoptosis. We simulated a bolus application and a continuous infusion using two different pharmacokinetic profiles of idarubicin with comparable AUCs (area under the time curve). After 48 hours of total incubation, the viability of HL-60 cells was 56.88% with profile 1 (50 ng/ml idarubicin for 2 hours) and 83.00% with profile 2 (4.25 ng/ml for 24 hours). Conclusions: Although these in vitro experiments are not directly applicable to the clinical situation, they do indicate that a prolongation of the application time up to at least 90 minutes, either by continuous infusion or by oral application, may be acceptable as a method of increasing apoptosis. On the other hand, the plasma peak seems to be an important factor for the induction of apoptosis. Further studies are in progress to define the minimal plasma peak necessary to induce a maximum of apoptosis.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational journal of clinical pharmacology and therapeutics
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)217-221
Number of pages5
Publication statusPublished - 2000


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