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J Clin Pharm Ther. 2007 Dec;32(6):633-9.

Should TPMT genotype and activity be used to monitor 6-mercaptopurine treatment in children with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia?

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Paediatric Pharmacology and Pharmacogenetic Department, Robert Debre Hospital, Paris, France.



The activity of thiopurine S-methyltransferase (TPMT), a key enzyme in the metabolism of purine analogues, displays wide inter-subject variability partly due to a genetic polymorphism. Previous studies have suggested adjusting purine analogues dosing according to TPMT activity but measurements are costly and time-consuming. It is still unclear, especially under treatment, whether the simpler TPMT genotyping reliably predicts enzyme activity. Our aim was to study the possible correlation of TPMT genotype with phenotype.


We determined the genotypic status and TMPT activity, at diagnosis and after 6 months of maintenance therapy, of 118 children with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL).


Eighty-nine per cent of the children had a homozygous wild-type genotype (group 1), 11% had one or two mutant allele(s) (group 2). At both time points, TPMT activity (U/mL peripheral red blood cell) was significantly higher in group 1 than in group 2 (P < 0.001) but inter-group levels overlapped considerably. There was considerable heterogeneity in the percentage increase in TPMT activity after therapy, and little correlation between metabolites ratio [6-methylmercaptopurine derivative/6-thioguanine nucleotides (6-TGN)] and TPMT activity at the end of 6 months' maintenance treatment. These results show that TPMT activity cannot be used as an accurate tool for 6-mercaptopurine monitoring.


Genotyping at diagnosis identifies patients with a homozygous mutant TPMT and may prevent severe and life-threatening toxicity. ALL treatment monitoring should preferentially be based on repeated determinations of intracellular active metabolites (6-TGN) and methylated metabolites.

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