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J Clin Oncol. 1999 May;17(5):1589-94.

High-dose leucovorin as sole therapy for methotrexate toxicity.

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  • 1Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY 10021, USA.



Hemodialysis, hemoperfusion, thymidine, and carboxypeptidase have been recommended together with high-dose (HD) leucovorin (LV) to treat patients at risk for methotrexate (MTX) toxicity. To elucidate the efficacy of high LV rescue as the sole salvage modality for severe MTX intoxication, we studied 13 patients who were treated in this fashion at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (New York, NY).


To identify patients at high risk for severe MTX toxicity, we performed a retrospective review of all patients with MTX levels greater than 100 micromol/L at 24 hours and greater than 10 micromol/L at 48 hours after HD MTX.


A total of 13 patients were identified. The median MTX concentration was 164 micromol/L at 24 hours (range, 102 to 940 micromol/L), 16.3 micromol/L at 48 hours (range, 10.5 to 190 micromol/L), and 6.2 micromol/L at 72 hours (range, 1.35 to 39 micromol/L). MTX levels remained greater than 0.1 micromol/L for an average of 11 +/- 3 days (mean +/- SD) (range, 7 to 17 days). In addition to supportive treatment with hydration and sodium bicarbonate administration, all patients were treated solely with HD LV, which was started within the first 24 hours in nine patients, 48 hours in three patients, and 72 hours in one patient in doses that varied from 0.24 to 8 g/d. Significant neutropenia (neutrophil count < 1,000/ microL) occurred in eight patients and lasted for 1 to 5 days. Thrombocytopenia (platelet count < 100,000/microL) occurred in seven patients and lasted for 5 to 10 days. Other toxic manifestations included mucositis of varying degrees, diarrhea, and neutropenic fever, but all patients recovered.


In the range of MTX levels observed, HD LV can be used as a sole therapy for MTX toxicity without the need for extracorporeal removal and with tolerable morbidity.

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