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Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 2012 Sep;68(9):1233-42. doi: 10.1007/s00228-012-1251-4. Epub 2012 Mar 16.

Pharmacogenetic determinants of mercaptopurine disposition in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

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Department of Pediatric Pharmacology and Pharmacogenetics, Robert Debré Hospital, 48 Boulevard Sérurier, 75019 Paris, France.



The backbone of drug therapy used in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in children includes 6-mercaptopurine (6-MP). Intracellular metabolism of this prodrug is a key component of the therapeutic response. Many metabolizing enzymes are involved in 6-MP disposition and active 6-MP metabolites are represented by 6-thioguanine nucleotides (6-TGN) and methylated metabolites primarily methylated by the thiopurine S-methyltransferase enzyme (TPMT). The genetic polymorphism affecting TPMT activity displays an important inter-subject variability in metabolites pharmacokinetics and influences the balance between 6-MP efficacy and toxicity: patients with high 6-TGN levels are at risk of myelosuppression while patients with high levels of methylated derivates are at hepatotoxic risk. However, the genetic TPMT polymorphism does not explain all 6-MP adverse events and some severe toxicities leading to life-threatening conditions remain unexplained. Additional single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in genes encoding enzymes involved in 6-MP metabolism and 6-MP transporters may also be responsible for this inter-individual 6-MP response variability.


This review presents the pharmacogenetic aspects of 6-MP metabolism in great detail. We have focused on published data on ALL treatment supporting the great potential of 6-MP pharmacogenetics to improve efficacy, tolerance, and event-free survival rates in children with ALL.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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