Pharmacokinetic studies with recombinant cytokines. Scientific issues and practical considerations

Stephen C. Piscitelli*, William G. Reiss, William D. Figg, William P. Petros

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Advances in molecular biology and recombinant DNA technology have led to the development of cytokines as therapeutic agents for a variety of disease states. The pharmacokinetic analysis of cytokines involves the understanding of analytical methods capable of detecting these agents in biological fluids and recognition of several factors which may have an impact on the cytokine concentration-time curves. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA) have become the most common method of detection and commercial kits are available for a wide variety of cytokines. Monoclonal antibody products are sensitive, have minimal crossreactivity and are relatively inexpensive when compared with high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). However, the primary limitation of these assays is their inability to measure biologically active protein. Conversely, bioassays do measure a biological event (i.e. proliferation or cytotoxicity) but are generally not used for cytokine analysis because of their high cost, long assay completion time, lack of specificity, poor sensitivity and influence of environmental conditions on the outcome. The pharmacokinetic profile of recombinant cytokines is influenced by a number of variables: endogenous production, circulating soluble receptors and cell-associated receptors, immunocompetence and antibody production against the cytokine all may influence the disposition of the agent. Thus, pharmacokinetic modelling of cytokines may involve complex models capable of characterising these nonlinear processes and resulting effects. The route of administration is an important variable since cytokines administered by subcutaneous injection may be partially metabolised by proteases present in the subcutaneous tissue. Other methods to simplify cytokine delivery are being actively investigated and include formulations for inhalation, topical and oral administration. A variety of cytokines (including interferon-α, interleukin-6 and tumour necrosis factor) are capable of inhibiting cytochrome P450 hepatic enzymes and, therefore, possess the potential to cause drug-cytokine interactions. Inhibition has been demonstrated in several in vitro, systems and animal models, although clinical data are currently limited. An increased understanding of the many factors which can alter the analysis and pharmacokinetics of cytokines is essential to the design of optimal dosage regimens.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)368-381
Number of pages14
JournalClinical Pharmacokinetics
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


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