A highly sensitive and selective liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) method has been developed for the determination of epirubicin in serum and cell specimens using daunorubicin as an internal standard. Using atmospheric pressure chemical ionisation (APCI), the epirubicin metabolites were readily distinguishable by their fragmentation pattern in the mass spectrometer. Selected reaction monitoring (SRM) mode was employed for quantitation of epirubicin and the metabolites. Following extraction, chromatography was performed on a C18 column with a mobile phase consisting of water-acetonitrile-formic acid, pH 3.2, with a flow rate of 200mul/min. The limit of detection (LOD) and the limit of quantitation (LOQ) of this method in serum were determined to be 1.0 and 2.5ng/ml, respectively. Linearity of the method was verified over the concentration range of 2.5-2000ng/ml, with a high correlation coefficient (R(2)>/=0.998). For the extraction procedure, an aliquot of 500mul serum, spiked with internal standard, was extracted using a chloroform-2-isopropanol (2:1, v/v) mixture. The method has been applied to the analysis of epirubicin in cancer cell samples and the identification of known and unknown metabolites in clinical trial patient serum samples.
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