Microdose studies are exploratory trials to determine early drug pharmacokinetics in humans. In this trial we examined whether the pharmacokinetics of gemcitabine at a therapeutic dose could be predicted from the pharmacokinetics of a microdose. In this prospective, open-label microdosing study, a gemcitabine microdose (100 µg) was given intravenously to participants on day 1, followed by a therapeutic dose (1250 mg/m2) on day 2. Gemcitabine and its metabolite 2’,2’-difluorodeoxyuracil (dFdU) were quantified in plasma and intracellularly by using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry). Noncompartmental pharmacokinetic analysis was performed. Ten patients participated in this study. The mean area under the plasma concentration-time curve (AUC0-8) of gemcitabine after microdosing was 0.00074 h·mg/L and after therapeutic dosing was 16 h·mg/L. The mean AUC0-8 of dFdU following the microdose and therapeutic dose were 0.022 h·mg/L and 169 h·mg/L, respectively. Exposure to gemcitabine after the therapeutic dose was within 2-fold of the exposure following a microdose, when linearly extrapolated to 1250 mg/m2. However, the shape of the concentration-time curve was different, as reflected by poor scalability in volume of distribution (939 L versus 222 L). Furthermore, intracellularly phosphorylated gemcitabine and phosphorylated dFdU levels could not be predicted from the microdose. The AUC0-8 of gemcitabine at therapeutic dose was accurately predicted by the pharmacokinetics of a microdose, when linearly extrapolated to 1250 mg/m2. Volume of distribution, elimination rate constant, and intracellular pharmacokinetics of the therapeutic dose could not be predicted from the microdose, which demonstrates limitations of the microdose approach in this case.
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