Single-cell pharmacokinetic imaging reveals a therapeutic strategy to overcome drug resistance to the microtubule inhibitor eribulin. Academic Article uri icon


  • Eribulin mesylate was developed as a potent microtubule-targeting cytotoxic agent to treat taxane-resistant cancers, but recent clinical trials have shown that it eventually fails in many patient subpopulations for unclear reasons. To investigate its resistance mechanisms, we developed a fluorescent analog of eribulin with pharmacokinetic (PK) properties and cytotoxic activity across a human cell line panel that are sufficiently similar to the parent drug to study its cellular PK and tissue distribution. Using intravital imaging and automated tracking of cellular dynamics, we found that resistance to eribulin and the fluorescent analog depended directly on the multidrug resistance protein 1 (MDR1). Intravital imaging allowed for real-time analysis of in vivo PK in tumors that were engineered to be spatially heterogeneous for taxane resistance, whereby an MDR1-mApple fusion protein distinguished resistant cells fluorescently. In vivo, MDR1-mediated drug efflux and the three-dimensional tumor vascular architecture were discovered to be critical determinants of drug accumulation in tumor cells. We furthermore show that standard intravenous administration of a third-generation MDR1 inhibitor, HM30181, failed to rescue drug accumulation; however, the same MDR1 inhibitor encapsulated within a nanoparticle delivery system reversed the multidrug-resistant phenotype and potentiated the eribulin effect in vitro and in vivo in mice. Our work demonstrates that in vivo assessment of cellular PK of an anticancer drug is a powerful strategy for elucidating mechanisms of drug resistance in heterogeneous tumors and evaluating strategies to overcome this resistance.

publication date

  • November 5, 2014

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