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Med Pediatr Oncol. 1997 Oct;29(4):252-5.

Thiopurine methyltransferase deficiency in childhood lymphoblastic leukaemia: 6-mercaptopurine dosage strategies.

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  • 1Department of Medicine and Pharmacology, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield, U.K.


Daily 6-mercaptopurine (6MP) forms the backbone of continuing chemotherapy for childhood lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). A major metabolic route is catalysed by thiopurine methyltransferase (TPMT). TPMT deficiency occurs in 1 in 300 individuals and results in high concentrations of thioguanine nucleotides (TGNs), cytotoxic 6MP metabolites. A leukaemic child taking 6MP repeatedly developed profound pancytopenias. TPMT deficiency was confirmed. TGN formation was then studied on attenuated 6MP dosages. Four weekly oral doses of 75 mg/m2 6MP produced TGNs of 2348 pmol/8 x 10(8) red cells, nearly double the maximum TGNs recorded in ALL children with TPMT activity taking long term daily 75 mg/m2 6MP. Grossly elevated TGN concentrations were also produced at 10% standard 6MP dosage (7.5 mg/m2 daily), accompanied by unacceptable 6MP toxicity (neutropenia, diarrhoea, vomiting). The child was eventually stabilised on 10% alternate day therapy and after 15 weeks TGNs were 1670 pmol, just above the upper end of the TGN range for ALL children with TPMT activity.

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