Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Cancer Res. 2009 Sep 1;69(17):7004-12. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-09-0451. Epub 2009 Aug 25.

Mutagenicity and potential carcinogenicity of thiopurine treatment in patients with inflammatory bowel disease.

Author information

  • 1Department of Pediatrics, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont 05445-0068, USA.


The thiopurines azathioprine and 6-mercaptopurine (6-MP) are effective immune modulators and cytotoxic agents extensively used in the treatment of autoimmune diseases, graft rejection, and cancer. There is compelling epidemiologic evidence that thiopurine treatment increases the risk for a variety of tumors by mechanisms that are unclear. We investigated the in vivo mutagenicity of long-term thiopurine treatment by determining the frequency and spectra of somatic mutation events at the hypoxanthine phosphoribosyltransferase (HPRT) locus in peripheral T lymphocytes as well as the prevalence of mutant clonal proliferation in a cross-sectional analysis of data from 119 children and adults with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). ANOVA and regression were performed to assess relationships among the frequency and spectra of HPRT mutations with disease, duration of illness, duration of treatment, and total therapeutic dose of azathioprine and 6-MP. We observed a significant increase in the frequency of somatic mutations in 56 subjects treated with thiopurines for IBD compared with 63 subjects not treated with thiopurines. This increase was related to both total dose (P < 0.001) and duration of treatment (P < 0.001). Comparative mutation spectra analysis of 1,020 mutant isolates revealed a significant increase in the proportion of all transitions (P < 0.001), particularly G:C to A:T transitions (P < 0.001). Combined analyses of two signatures for mutant clonality, HPRT mutation, and T-cell receptor beta CDR3 region unique gene sequence also showed a significant thiopurine-dependent increase in mutant cell clonal proliferation (P < 0.001). These findings provide in vivo evidence for mutation induction as a potential carcinogenic mechanism associated with chronic thiopurine intervention.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Publication Types, MeSH Terms, Substances, Grant Support

Publication Types

MeSH Terms


Grant Support

PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Support Center