The effect of the calcium channel blocker verapamil (VRP) on the accumulation and retention of vincristine (VCR) has been examined in mice bearing xenografts of human rhabdomyosarcomas. The tumors were Rh18, moderately sensitive to VCR, and its subline, Rh18/VCR3, selected in vivo for primary resistance to VCR. Administration of VRP by i.p. bolus at dose levels above 75 mg/kg was limited by acute lethality. At this dose, the maximal concentration in plasma was 24 μM, with rapid elimination such that plasma concentrations reported to modulate resistance in vitro (approximately 5-10 μM) were maintained for less than 60 min. To sustain a 10 μM plasma concentration, mice were infused with VRP at 6.25 mg/kg/hr (150 mg/kg/day) for up to 7 days using osmotic pumps implanted in the peritoneal cavity. Steady-state plasma levels were ≥ 10,μM for at least 96 hr, and this schedule demonstrated minimal toxicity. Administration of VCR 20 hr after the start of VRP infusion produced significant lethality, requiring an 8-fold reduction in the VCR dose. Pharmacokinetic studies showed that VRP markedly increased the uptake and retention of VCR in small intestine, liver and kidney of mice. In small intestine, 8-fold greater levels of VCR were determined 24 hr after VCR administration, and this was associated with an increase in T 1 2 for elimination from 350 to 913 min. HPLC analysis of extracts from small intestine showed that > 90% of the radiolabel eluted with VCR or 4-desacetyl-VCR. Modulation of VCR retention was also related to the dose of VCR administered. The VRP-sensitive efflux pathway appeared more effective in certain tissues only at higher concentrations of VCR. In contrast, VRP did not alter significantly the uptake and retention of VCR in either the parent or VCR-resistant human xenografts. The data demonstrated that, in the mouse, VRP modulates the uptake and retention of VCR in several tissues, and this may indicate that drug efflux mediated by a VRP-sensitive mechanism (e.g. GP-170, associated with the multiple drug resistance phenotype) has a protective function against xenobiotics in these tissues.
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