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Residual free-drug-related species that are present in antibody-drug conjugates (ADC) are a potential safety risk to patients and are therefore categorized as a critical quality attribute that must be strictly monitored and controlled. Among the many analytical methods developed for free-drug analysis, reversed-phase liquid chromatography (RP-LC) is the most common approach. Conventional RP-LC methods for free-drug analysis, however, involve labor-intensive sample preparation. Here we present a new RP-LC method to directly analyze free-drug-related species in an ADC sample without the need for sample preparation. In our work, free-drug-related species were very well separated from ADC peaks in the chromatography gradient. Typical performance issues observed in conventional RP-LC, such as column fouling, detection interference, and carryover, were not observed or were negligible with this new method. Three options were evaluated for free-drug quantitation: Strohl (2017)  use of an external free drug calibration curve for determination of absolute concentration; Perez et al. (2014)  calculation of relative percentage based on peak area ratio between free drug and ADC at a characteristic wavelength unique for drug payload; and (Beck et al., 2017)  calculation of relative percentage based on peak area ratio between free drug and corrected ADC peak area (at any wavelength). The method with calibration curve provides the highest sensitivity, the best accuracy and precision for determination of free drug present in the ADC. However, the second and third options were simpler because they eliminated the need for an external calibration curve, making them worth exploring. Due to its simplicity and compatibility with mass spectrometry, the new method is also a good choice for direct analysis of stability samples.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Journal of chromatography. B, Analytical technologies in the biomedical and life sciences
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