Cancer treatment reviews

Continuing therapy for childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia: clinical and cellular pharmacology of methotrexate, 6-mercaptopurine and 6-thioguanine.

PMID 11908928


Across the world, therapy with 6-mercaptopurine (6-MP) and methotrexate (MTX) forms the basis of the continuing therapy of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). In this review, the pharmacological determinants of the sensitivity of human leukaemia cell lines and lymphoblasts derived from children with ALL will be discussed. In addition, clinical pharmacological studies of 6-MP and MTX in relation to the continuing therapy with childhood ALL will be reviewed. For 6-MP in vitro, prolonged exposure times to relatively high extracellular drug concentrations are necessary for cytotoxicity, and these concentrations are much higher than those achieved during continuing therapy for childhood ALL. For MTX, plasma concentrations are achieved during continuing therapy that would be cytotoxic to human leukaemia cells during prolonged exposures in vitro. For both MTX and 6-MP, wide inter- and intrapatient variation in plasma pharmacokinetic parameters has been described. For 6-MP and MTX, cellular pharmacological studies have been largely restricted to erythrocytes as a surrogate of the possible effects in leukaemic blasts. Although measures of the pharmacology of 6-MP and MTX in erythrocytes has been related to prognosis in many studies, 6-MP systemic exposure and the dose intensity of 6-MP and MTX actually received by children during this phase of therapy seems to be the most important determinant of efficacy. Further studies will be needed to determine the importance of pharmacokinetic variability during continuing therapy as a determinant of outcome for children with ALL. In this respect, minimal residual disease status during this phase of treatment may prove to be a useful pharmacodynamic endpoint.

Related Materials