Subcutaneous (s.c.) administration continues to be the main route for the delivery of protein drugs due to their poor bioavailability by most non-parenteral routes. While small drug molecules are rapidly and extensively absorbed after s.c. injection, the systemic bioavailability of protein drugs is often incomplete and variable. Given the widespread use of the s.c. route for protein drugs, surprisingly little is known about the factors that govern the rate and extent of protein absorption from the interstitial space and the role of the lymphatic system in the transport of these molecules to the systemic circulation. The few studies that have directly addressed the role of lymphatic transport in protein bioavailability are complicated by the use of methods and models that vary widely. In this review we will evaluate the available literature describing the lymphatic transport of proteins after s.c. injection and more specifically, address the impact of experimental variation (e.g. site of cannulation, animal model, anesthesia) on the interpretation of the data obtained. We will also describe in some detail the sheep model currently in use in our laboratory, which allows both estimation of the extent of uptake of protein drugs into the lymphatics draining the injection site, and quantification of the contribution of lymphatic transport to the absolute bioavailability. © 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
- Lymphatic transport