The transfer of cytotoxic agents across the tumor endothelium into the interstitial tumor space is considered a critical step in clinical resistance of solid tumors to antineoplastic chemotherapy. However, experimental data on drug transfer from the blood into the interstitium of solid tumors are scarce. Therefore, in this study, we used an innovative technique, in vivo microdialysis, for measuring interstitial tumor pharmacokinetics and plasma-to-tumor transfer rates of methotrexate (MTX) in breast cancer patients.

Microdialysis probes were inserted into the primary tumor and the periumbilical s.c. adipose layer of nine previously chemotherapy-naive breast cancer patients to monitor interstitial concentrations following i.v. administration of MTX (40 mg/m2) during a three-drug treatment regimen. Mean interstitial MTX load in breast tumors, expressed as area under curve (AUC), was 60 ± 20% (mean ± SE; coefficient of variation = 100%) of mean plasma MTX load. There was no correlation between plasma AUC and the AUC in the interstitial space of tumor tissue (P = 0.93). Not one of the parameters plasma, interstitial tumor load, and transfer rate of MTX to the interstitial space was associated with favorable clinical response.

In conclusion, plasma levels of MTX are not predictive of intratumor levels. There is a high interindividual variability in transendothelial MTX transfer. Under the present conditions, access of MTX to the interstitial space is not a rate-limiting step for clinical response to chemotherapy.

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