A sensitive and selective reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatographic (HPLC) method for the determination of polyoxyethyleneglycerol triricinoleate 35 (Cremophor EL; CrEL), which requires only microvolumes (20 microliters) of plasma, has been developed and validated. The procedure is based on saponification of CrEL in alcoholic KOH, followed by extraction of the released fatty acid ricinoleic acid with chloroform and derivatization with 1-naphthylamine. Margaric acid was used as the internal standard. The products are separated using an HPLC system consisting of an analytical column packed with Spherisorb ODS-1 material and a mobile phase of methanol-acetonitrile-10 mM potassium phosphate buffer pH 7.0 (72:13:15, v/v). Detection was executed by UV absorption at 280 nm. The lower limit of quantitation and the lower limit of detection in plasma are 0.01 and 0.005% (v/v) of CrEL, respectively. The percentage deviation and precision of the procedure, over the validated concentration range of 0.01 to 1.0% (v/v) of CrEL in plasma, are < or = 8.0% and < or = 6.6%, respectively. Compared to the previously described bioassay, the presented HPLC method possesses superior sensitivity and reliability. Preliminary pharmacokinetic studies of CrEL in mice and patients receiving paclitaxel formulated in CrEL have demonstrated the applicability of the presented assay.