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Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 2015 Jan;75(1):59-66. doi: 10.1007/s00280-014-2613-7. Epub 2014 Oct 28.

Myelotoxicity after high-dose methotrexate in childhood acute leukemia is influenced by 6-mercaptopurine dosing but not by intermediate thiopurine methyltransferase activity.

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Department of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, The University Hospital Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark.



Through enhancement of 6-mercaptopurine (6MP) bioavailability and inhibition of purine de novo synthesis, high-dose methotrexate (HD-MTX) may increase incorporation into DNA of 6-thioguanine nucleotides, the cytotoxic metabolites of 6MP. Patients with intermediate activity of thiopurine methyltransferase (TPMT(IA)) have higher cytosol 6-thioguanine nucleotide levels. We investigated toxicity following HD-MTX during MTX/6MP maintenance therapy in relation to 6MP and TPMT.


Using linear mixed models, we explored myelo- and hepatotoxicity in relation to 6MP dosage and TPMT phenotype following 1,749 HD-MTX courses to 411 children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia on maintenance therapy.


The degree of myelosuppression following HD-MTX was similar for patients with TPMT(IA) and patients with high TPMT activity (TPMT(HA)), when HD-MTX started with same blood counts and 6MP doses. However, since TPMT(IA) had lower blood counts at initiation of HD-MTX compared with TPMT(HA) patients (median WBC 2.8 vs. 3.3 × 10⁹/L, P = 0.01; median ANC 1.4 vs. 1.7 × 10⁹/L, P = 0.02), TPMT(IA) continued to have lower WBC and ANC levels compared with TPMT(HA) during all 28 days after HD-MTX [relative difference 9 % (95 % CI 2-17), P = 0.02 and 21 % (95 % CI 6-39), P = 0.005]. Still, the fractional decrease in WBC and ANC levels after HD-MTX did not differ between TPMT(IA) and TPMT(HA) patients (P = 0.47; P = 0.38). The degree of leukopenia, neutropenia, thrombocytopenia and rise in aminotransferases were all significantly related to 6MP dose (P < 0.001 for all analyses).


For both TPMT(IA) and TPMT(HA) patients, dose of 6MP prior to HD-MTX should be guided by pre-HD-MTX blood counts, but not by TPMT activity.

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