Quantifying the interaction of drugs with carrier proteins in plasma is of importance for understanding effective drug delivery to disease-affected tissues. In this study, we employed analytical ultracentrifugation and steady-state fluorescence spectroscopy to characterize the interaction of a potential new anticancer drug, AG 1478-mesylate, with plasma proteins in a suspension of normal serum albumin (NSA). We found that mesylate salt of AG 1478, an epidermal growth factor receptor kinase inhibitor, sediments in 0.1%(w/v) NSA as a complex with a sedimentation coefficient of 3.8 S. This is consistent with the size of human serum albumin. This interaction was quantitated by meniscus depletion sedimentation and fluorescence titration analyses. AG 1478-mesylate binds to albumin with an apparent single-site affinity (K(d)) of 120 microM. In this article, we show that the cyclodextrin carrier molecule, Captisol, increases the apparent affinity of the hydrophobic AG 1478-mesylate for albumin (K(d)=4-6 microM), and we propose that the AG 1478-mesylate-Captisol (1:1) complex binds to albumin with at least 10-fold higher affinity than does AG 1478-mesylate ligand alone. A fluorenylmethoxycarbonyl-sulfonic acid (FMS) derivative of the 6-aminoquinazoline analog of AG 1478, which was designed to have improved serum-binding properties, was shown by fluorescence analysis to bind with approximately 100-fold greater affinity than the parent compound. This has significant implications in the effective delivery of therapeutic agents in vivo.