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Mutat Res. 1998 Nov 9;419(1-3):107-21.

The frequency of illegitimate V(D)J recombinase-mediated mutations in children treated with etoposide-containing antileukemic therapy.

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Environmental Carcinogenesis Division, Mail Drop 68, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Research Triangle Park, NC 27711, USA.


Etoposide is among the most widely used anti-cancer drugs. Its use, however, has been associated with increased risk of secondary acute myeloid leukemia (AML) which is characterized by chromosomal translocations suggesting involvement of recombination-associated motifs at the breakpoints. A PCR-based assay was developed to quantitate the frequency of two illegitimate V(D)J recombinase-mediated genomic rearrangements-a 20-kb deletion in the hprt gene and the bcl2/IgH translocation (t(14;18)) found in non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. We examined both lymphocyte and non-lymphocyte blood cell DNA of children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) for changes in the frequencies of these biomarkers during etoposide therapy to determine the level of illegitimate V(D)J recombination changes during therapy. A low level of t(14;18) was found in the lymphocytes before etoposide treatment, which was significantly reduced during etoposide therapy. In before-etoposide samples, no t(14;18) were found among 7.72x107 non-lymphocytes; during treatment none were found among 1.87x108 non-lymphocytes. Deletions were not found before etoposide treatment in either the lymphocytes (6.67x107) or non-lymphocytes (5.43x107) and were non-significantly elevated during etoposide therapy (1 in 1.4x108 lymphocytes and 1 in 1.39x108 non-lymphocytes). It is interesting to note the one patient with an hprt deletion mutation in non-lymphocytes; V(D)J recombination is not normally found in this cell type, but is the cell type from which AML derives. Several patients had clones of t(14;18)-bearing cells as determined by DNA sequence analysis. These results suggest that this etoposide-based chemotherapy was ineffective in producing genomic rearrangements mediated by illegitimate V(D)J recombination in these patients.

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