6-Thioguanine in children with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia: influence of food on parent drug pharmacokinetics and 6-thioguanine nucleotide concentrations

Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2001 Jun;51(6):531-9. doi: 10.1046/j.0306-5251.2001.01391.x.


Aims: Since relatively little is known about the pharmacokinetics of 6-thioguanine (6TG) in children receiving 6-thioguanine for maintenance therapy of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), we studied plasma drug concentrations under standardized conditions and investigated the effect of food on parent drug pharmacokinetics and the accumulation of the active metabolites 6-thioguanine nucleotides (6-TGNs) in red cells.

Methods: Single oral doses of 40 mg of 6-TG were administered both in the fasting and fed state to children with ALL. Pharmacokinetic sampling was performed up to 6 h post dose. Daily oral doses of 40 mg m(-2) of 6-TG were administered both fasting and after food over two 4 week periods. Twice weekly samples were taken for metabolite concentrations. The study design was cross-over with each child receiving dosing in either fasted or after food over a 4 week period in each phase.

Results: Eleven patients were studied. A wide interindividual variation in Cmax (median 313 pmol ml(-1), range 51-737) and AUC (median 586 pmol ml(-1) h, range 156-1306) was observed in the fasted state. Concomitant food administration resulted in a significant reduction in Cmax (median 71 vs 313 pmol ml(-1), P = 0.006, CI from 36 to 426), AUC (median 200 vs 586 pmol ml(-1) h, P = 0.006, 95% CI from 109 to 692), and time to reach Cmax (median 1.5 vs 3 h, P = 0.013, 95% CI from 0.74 to 2.73). There was no difference in the steady state concentration of red cell 6-TGNs observed after a 4 week period of 6-TG administered fasting or after food.

Conclusions: Children with ALL demonstrate significant interindividual variation in 6-TG pharmacokinetics. Although there would appear to be a reduction in parent drug Cmax and AUC with food there was no difference in 6-TGN concentrations after 4 weeks of 6-TG. Taking the drug on an empty stomach may not be necessary.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adolescent
  • Area Under Curve
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Fasting
  • Food*
  • Food-Drug Interactions / physiology*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Guanine Nucleotides / analysis*
  • Guanine Nucleotides / blood
  • Half-Life
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / blood*
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / drug therapy
  • Thioguanine / administration & dosage
  • Thioguanine / pharmacokinetics*
  • Thioguanine / therapeutic use
  • Time Factors


  • Guanine Nucleotides
  • Thioguanine