Background: Liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) is routinely used for analysis of immunosuppressive drugs. This study investigated whether replacing analog internal standards (ANISs) with isotopically labeled internal standards (ILISs) has an impact on the performance of a LC-MS/MS method for the quantification of tacrolimus (TAC), sirolimus (SIR), ciclosporin A (CsA) and everolimus (EVE) in whole blood.
Methods: Following hemolysis, protein precipitation, and extraction with either ANISs (ascomycin, desmethoxy-rapamycin, CsD), or ILISs (TAC-13C,D2; SIR-13C,D3; CsA-D12; EVE-D4), samples were centrifuged and injected into a LC-MS/MS device equipped with a C18 reversed phase column. The effect of the two ISs on the linearity, precision, accuracy, trueness, matrix effects, and carryover was investigated by using the same patient-, proficiency testing-, and quality control samples. Statistical analysis of agreement between results includes a standard random effects model and Passing-Bablok regression.
Results: Within-day imprecision was <10%, between-day <8%, and trueness 91%–110% for all the analytes with both ISs. No carryover or matrix effects were observed. The median accuracy was −2.1% for CsA, 9.1% for EVE, 12.2% for SIR, and −1.2% for TAC with the ILISs; and −2% for CsA, 9.8% for EVE, 11.4% for SIR, and 0.2% for TAC with the ANISs. Results of patient and proficiency testing samples were not statistically different.
Conclusions: Although ILISs are generally considered superior to ANISs, they may not be always essential. When optimizing a LC-MS/MS method other factors must be also considered.
Henar Valbuena was awarded with an Exchange Programme Fellowship from Fundación José Luis Castaño to complete her scientific education and be able to take part in this project.
Author contributions: All the authors have accepted responsibility for the entire content of this submitted manuscript and approved submission.
Research funding: None declared.
Employment or leadership: None declared.
Honorarium: None declared.
Competing interests: The funding organization(s) played no role in the study design; in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; or in the decision to submit the report for publication.
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