Theranostics 2019; 9(11):3365-3387. doi:10.7150/thno.34509 This issue


Research tools for extrapolating the disposition and pharmacokinetics of nanomaterials from preclinical animals to humans

Michael S. Valic1, Gang Zheng1,2✉

1. Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, University Health Network, Toronto, Ontario, CANADA, M5G 1L7.
2. Department of Medical Biophysics, Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, and Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, CANADA, M5G 1L7.

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Valic MS, Zheng G. Research tools for extrapolating the disposition and pharmacokinetics of nanomaterials from preclinical animals to humans. Theranostics 2019; 9(11):3365-3387. doi:10.7150/thno.34509. Available from

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Graphic abstract

A critical step in the translational science of nanomaterials from preclinical animal studies to humans is the comprehensive investigation of their disposition (or ADME) and pharmacokinetic behaviours. Disposition and pharmacokinetic data are ideally collected in different animal species (rodent and nonrodent), at different dose levels, and following multiple administrations. These data are used to assess the systemic exposure and effect to nanomaterials, primary determinants of their potential toxicity and therapeutic efficacy. At toxic doses in animal models, pharmacokinetic (termed toxicokinetic) data are related to toxicologic findings that inform the design of nonclinical toxicity studies and contribute to the determination of the maximum recommended starting dose in clinical phase 1 trials. Nanomaterials present a unique challenge for disposition and pharmacokinetic investigations owing to their prolonged circulation times, nonlinear pharmacokinetic profiles, and their extensive distribution into tissues. Predictive relationships between nanomaterial physicochemical properties and behaviours in vivo are lacking and are confounded by anatomical, physiological, and immunological differences amongst preclinical animal models and humans. These challenges are poorly understood and frequently overlooked by investigators, leading to inaccurate assumptions of disposition, pharmacokinetic, and toxicokinetics profiles across species that can have profoundly detrimental impacts for nonclinical toxicity studies and clinical phase 1 trials. Herein are highlighted two research tools for analysing and interpreting disposition and pharmacokinetic data from multiple species and for extrapolating this data accurately in humans. Empirical methodologies and mechanistic mathematical modelling approaches are discussed with emphasis placed on important considerations and caveats for representing nanomaterials, such as the importance of integrating physiological variables associated with the mononuclear phagocyte system (MPS) into extrapolation methods for nanomaterials. The application of these tools will be examined in recent examples of investigational and clinically approved nanomaterials. Finally, strategies for applying these extrapolation tools in a complementary manner to perform dose predictions and in silico toxicity assessments in humans will be explained. A greater familiarity with the available tools and prior experiences of extrapolating nanomaterial disposition and pharmacokinetics from preclinical animal models to humans will hopefully result in a more straightforward roadmap for the clinical translation of promising nanomaterials.

Keywords: nanomaterials, ADME, pharmacokinetics, interspecies allometric scaling, physiologically based pharmacokinetic modelling