A novel integrated pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic model to evaluate combination therapy and determine in vivo synergism

Young Hee Choi, Chao Zhang, Zhenzhen Liu, Mei Juan Tu, Ai Xi Yu, Ai Ming Yu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Understanding pharmacokinetic (PK)-pharmacodynamic (PD) relationships is essential in translational research. Existing PK-PD models for combination therapy lack consideration of quantitative contributions from individual drugs, whereas interaction factor is always assigned arbitrarily to one drug and overstretched for the determination of in vivo pharmacologic synergism. Herein, we report a novel generic PK-PD model for combination therapy by considering apparent contributions from individual drugs coadministered. Doxorubicin (Dox) and sorafenib (Sor) were used as model drugs whose PK data were obtained in mice and fit to two-compartment model. Xenograft tumor growth was biphasic in mice, and PD responses were described by three-compartment transit models. This PK-PD model revealed that Sor (contribution factor = 1.62) had much greater influence on overall tumor-growth inhibition than coadministered Dox (contribution factor = 0.644), which explains the mysterious clinical findings on remarkable benefits for patients with cancer when adding Sor to Dox treatment, whereas there were none when adding Dox to Sor therapy. Furthermore, the combination index method was integrated into this predictive PK-PD model for critical determination of in vivo pharmacologic synergism that cannot be correctly defined by the interaction factor in conventional models. In addition, this new PK-PD model was able to identify optimal dosage combination (e.g., doubling experimental Sor dose and reducing Dox dose by 50%) toward much greater degree of tumor-growth inhibition (.90%), which was consistent with stronger synergy (combination index = 0.298). These findings demonstrated the utilities of this new PK-PD model and reiterated the use of valid method for the assessment of in vivo synergism. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT A novel pharmacokinetic (PK)-pharmacodynamic (PD) model was developed for the assessment of combination treatment by considering contributions from individual drugs, and combination index method was incorporated to critically define in vivo synergism. A greater contribution from sorafenib to tumor-growth inhibition than that of coadministered doxorubicin was identified, offering explanation for previously inexplicable clinical observations. This PK-PD model and strategy shall have broad applications to translational research on identifying optimal dosage combinations with stronger synergy toward improved therapeutic outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)305-315
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology


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