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Future Oncol. 2012 Feb;8(2):145-50. doi: 10.2217/fon.11.147.

Management of 3-aminopyridine-2-carboxaldehyde thiosemicarbazone-induced methemoglobinemia.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, University Hospitals Case Medical Center & Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, Cleveland, OH 44106, USA.


The anticancer agent 3-aminopyridine-2-carboxaldehyde thiosemicarbazone is a ribonucleotide reductase inhibitor. It inactivates ribonucleotide reductase by disrupting an iron-stabilized radical in ribonucleotide reductase's small subunits, M2 and M2b (p53R2). Unfortunately, 3-aminopyridine-2-carboxaldehyde thiosemicarbazone also alters iron II (Fe(2+)) in hemoglobin. This creates Fe(3+) methemoglobin that does not deliver oxygen. Fe(2+) in hemoglobin normally auto-oxidizes to inactive Fe(3+) methemoglobin at a rate of nearly 3% per day and this is counterbalanced by a reductase system that normally limits methemoglobin concentrations to less than 1% of hemoglobin. This balance may be perturbed by symptomatic toxicity levels during 3-aminopyridine-2-carboxaldehyde thiosemicarbazone therapy. Indications of 3-aminopyridine-2-carboxaldehyde thiosemicarbazone sequelae attributable to methemoglobinemia include resting dyspnea, headaches and altered cognition. Management of methemoglobinemia includes supplemental oxygen, ascorbate and, most importantly, intravenously administered methylene blue as a therapeutic antidote.

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