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Ther Drug Monit. 1996 Aug;18(4):328-34.

Individualizing therapy with 6-mercaptopurine and 6-thioguanine related to the thiopurine methyltransferase genetic polymorphism.

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Department of Medicine and Pharmacology, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield, U.K.


The formation of intracellular thionucleotides are a prerequisite for mercaptopurine (MP) cytotoxicity, and interindividual variations in the inherited level of thiopurine methyltransferase (TPMT) activity regulate their formation. Measurement of pretreatment TPMT activities can identify the TPMT "deficient" patient and, conversely, the individual with very high enzyme activities. The former are at higher risk of acute toxicity and potentially fatal bone marrow failure and the latter of suboptimal treatment. Leukaemic children taking MP therapy who form inadequate amounts of thioguanine nucleotides (TGNs) do not experience drug toxicity and are at an increased risk of disease relapse. When low TGNs are due to very high TPMT activities, thioguanine may be a more appropriate thiopurine. Another cause of inadequate TGN concentrations is partial or noncompliance with oral chemotherapy. Compliance problems can be identified by the measurement of both TGNs and methylated drug metabolites.

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