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Clin Cancer Res. 2003 May;9(5):1611-5.

Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase polymorphism in advanced colorectal cancer: a novel genomic predictor of clinical response to fluoropyrimidine-based chemotherapy.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, McGill University, Montreal, Canada.



Fluorouracil (5-FU) is widely used in the treatment of colorectal cancer. Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) could play an important role in the action of 5-FU, an inhibitor of thymidylate synthetase, by converting 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate, a substrate of thymidylate synthetase, to 5-methyltetrahydrofolate. A polymorphism in MTHFR (677 C-->T; A222V) reduces enzyme activity and presumably increases the level of 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate. This increase would be expected to correlate with an improved response to 5-FU. The aim of the present study was to investigate the association between the MTHFR polymorphism and response to 5-FU and other fluoropyrimidines in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer.


Forty-three patients with metastatic colorectal adenocarcinoma were analyzed. All patients were treated with p.o. or i.v. fluoropyrimidine-based chemotherapy. A comprehensive chart examination was performed to determine tumor response rates. Genomic DNA was extracted from blood, and MTHFR genotypes were determined.


At least one copy of the mutant valine allele was present in 26 patients (21 heterozygotes and 5 homozygotes). The remaining 17 patients carried only the alanine allele. Exploration of the relationship between MTHFR alleles and response rates revealed a statistically significant difference in the frequency of the valine allele among responders versus nonresponders (P = 0.0351). This observation was associated with an odds ratio of 2.86 (95% confidence interval 1.06-7.73) for a response in individuals with a valine allele.


Our results show a link between the MTHFR polymorphism and tumor response to fluoropyrimidine-based chemotherapy and suggest that MTHFR genotyping may be of predictive benefit in selecting treatment regimens.

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