31P Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) was employed to investigate tumor pH in xenografts of drug-sensitive and drug-resistant MCF-7 human breast carcinoma cells. Measured extracellular pH values were found to be lower than the intracellular pH in all three tumor types investigated. The magnitude of this acid-outside plasmalemmal pH gradient increased with increasing tumor size in tumors of two drug-resistant variants of MCF-7 cells, but not in tumors of the parent (drug-sensitive) cells. The partitioning of weak-base or weak-acid drug molecules across the plasma membrane of a tumor cell is dependent upon the acid-dissociation constant (pK(a)) of the drug as well as the plasmalemmal pH gradient. A large acid-outside pH gradient, such as those seen in MCF-7 xenografts, can exert a protective effect on the cell from weak-base drugs such as anthracyclines and Vinca alkaloids, which have pK(a) values of 7.5 to 9.5. The possibility of enhancing the therapeutic efficacy of weak-base drugs by dietary or metabolic manipulation of the extracellular pH, in order to reduce or reverse the plasmalemmal pH gradient, deserves investigation. Copyright (C) 1999 Elsevier Science Inc.
- Breast carcinoma
- P magnetic resonance spectroscopy
- Tumor pH
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