The antifolate agent methotrexate is an important component of maintenance therapy in acute lymphoblastic leukemia, although methotrexate-related toxicity is often a reason for interruption of chemotherapy. Prediction of toxicity is difficult because of inter-individual variability susceptibility to antileukemic agents. Methotrexate interferes with folate metabolism leading to depletion of reduced folates. The aim of this study was to investigate the influence of polymorphisms for folate metabolizing enzymes with respect to toxicity and survival in adult patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia treated with methotrexate maintenance therapy. To this purpose, we evaluated possible associations between genotype and hematologic and non-hematologic toxicity and effects on survival at 2 years of follow-up in patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Polymorphisms in the genes encoding for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR 677C>T) and in dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR 19 bp deletion) significantly increased the risk of hepatotoxicity in single (odds ratio 5.23, 95% confidence interval 1.13-21.95 and odds ratio 4.57, 95% confidence interval 1.01-20.77, respectively) and in combined analysis (odds ratio 6.82, 95% confidence interval 1.38-33.59). MTHFR 677C>T also increased the risk of leukopenia and gastrointestinal toxicity, whilst thymidylate synthase 28 bp repeat polymorphism increased the risk of anemia (odds ratio 8.48, 95% confidence interval 2.00-36.09). Finally, patients with MTHFR 677TT had a decreased overall survival rate (hazard ratio 2.37, 95% confidence interval 1.46-8.45). Genotyping of folate polymorphisms might be useful in adult acute lymphoblastic leukemia to optimize methotrexate therapy, reducing the associated toxicity with possible effects on survival.
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