Background and Purpose: The penetration of the anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) inhibitor alectinib in neuroblastomas and the relationship between alectinib and ALK expression are unknown. The aim of this study was to perform a quantitative investigation of the inter- and intra-tumoural distribution of alectinib in different neuroblastoma xenograft models using matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization MS imaging (MALDI-MSI). Experimental Approach: The distribution of alectinib in NB1 (ALK amplification) and SK-N-FI (ALK wild-type) xenograft tissues was analysed using MALDI-MSI. The abundance of alectinib in tumours and intra-tumoural areas was quantified using ion signal intensities from MALDI-MSI after normalization by correlation with LC-MS/MS. Key Results: The distribution of alectinib was heterogeneous in neuroblastomas. The penetration of alectinib was not significantly different between ALK amplification and ALK wide-type tissues using both LC-MS/MS concentrations and MSI intensities. Normalization with an internal standard increased the quantitative property of MSI by adjusting for the ion suppression effect. The distribution of alectinib in different intra-tumoural areas can alternatively be quantified from MS images by correlation with LC-MS/MS. Conclusion and Implications: The penetration of alectinib into tumour tissues may not be homogenous or influenced by ALK expression in the early period after single-dose administration. MALDI-MSI may prove to be a valuable pharmaceutical method for elucidating the mechanism of action of drugs by clarifying their microscopic distribution in heterogeneous tissues.
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