Cancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology

, Volume 29, Issue 5, pp 343–353

Relations between the penetration, binding and average concentration of cytostatic drugs in human tumour spheroids


  • Martin Erlanson
    • Department of OncologyUniversity of Umeå
  • Erika Daniel-Szolgay
    • Division of Physical Biology, Department of Radiation SciencesUppsala University
  • Jörgen Carlsson
    • Division of Physical Biology, Department of Radiation SciencesUppsala University
Original Articles Actinomycin D, Adriamycin, Ara-C, Cytosine Arabinoside, Daunomycin, Doxorubicin, Chemotherapy

DOI: 10.1007/BF00686002

Cite this article as:
Erlanson, M., Daniel-Szolgay, E. & Carlsson, J. Cancer Chemother. Pharmacol. (1992) 29: 343. doi:10.1007/BF00686002


A penetration assay based on freeze-drying and vapour fixation was applied to show the spatial distribution of non-bound and bound cytostatic drugs in cellular spheroids. Several studies have proposed that peripheral binding of drugs correlates with limited penetration. We showed that granular accumulation, mainly at the peripheral part of spheroids, might occur in parallel with good penetration. For example, this was the case in human glioma spheroids after incubation with Adriamycin for 15–30 min. Following treatment with actinomycin D, colon carcinoma spheroids exhibited rather good penetration but also showed granular accumulation mainly in their peripheral regions. Ara-C accumulated largely and homogeneously in the peripheral regions of colon carcinoma spheroids and this severely delayed penetration. It took about 1 h for ara-C in the central regions of the spheroids to reach the same concentration as in the culture medium. In contrast, ara-C easily penetrated glioma spheroids without accumulating noticeably at the periphery. Retention tests involving washing and further incubation in drug-free culture medium revealed that the areas demonstrating extensive accumulation most often retained the drug, indicating binding, whereas the concentration of drug in other areas decreased. The oil-centrifugation method, which was used for rapid separation of the spheroids from the drug-containing medium, showed that the average concentration of daunomycin in the spheroids exceeded that in the culture medium as early as after 15 min, by which time only limited penetration had occurred. We found that good penetration of ara-C correlated with a low average concentration in glioma spheroids, whereas limited penetration correlated with a high average concentration in colon carcinoma spheroids. The latter finding was attributable to the high accumulation of drug at the spheroid periphery. Thus, there was an inverse relationship between penetration and binding and between penetration and average drug concentration. It seemed that binding delayed or prevented penetration, whereas little, if any binding resulted in better penetration. Granular binding such as that observed Adriamycin and actinomycin D gave intermediatley good penetration.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1992