Background & aims: The effects of 6-mercaptopurine (6-MP) are mediated via its intracellular conversion to 6-thioguanine (6-TG) and 6-methylmercaptopurine (6-MMP) nucleotide metabolites, the latter genetically controlled by thiopurine methyltransferase (TPMT). We sought to determine optimal therapeutic 6-MP metabolite levels and their correlation with medication-induced toxicity and TPMT genotype.
Methods: Therapeutic response was determined in 92 pediatric patients with inflammatory bowel disease coincidentally with hematologic, pancreatic, and hepatic laboratory parameters, and compared with erythrocyte metabolite levels and TPMT genotype.
Results: Clinical response was highly correlated with 6-TG levels (P < 0.0001) but not with any other variable, including 6-MMP levels, drug dose, gender, and concurrent medications. The frequency of therapeutic response increased at 6-TG levels > 235 pmol/8 x 10(8) erythrocytes (P < 0.001). Hepatotoxicity correlated with elevated 6-MMP levels (>5700 pmol/8 x 10(8) erythrocytes; P < 0.05). Although leukopenia was associated with higher 6-TG levels (P < 0.03), it was observed in only 8% of responders. Patients heterozygous for TPMT (8/92) had higher 6-TG levels (P < 0.0001), and all responded to therapy.
Conclusions: 6-MP metabolite levels and TPMT genotyping may assist clinicians in optimizing therapeutic response to 6-MP and identifying individuals at increased risk for drug-induced toxicity.