Background: The enzyme asparaginase (L-Asp) catalyses the hydrolysis of the non-essential amino acids asparagine and glutamine to aspartic and glutamic acid and ammonia. Ammonia therefore represents a direct metabolite of the biochemical reaction induced by this enzyme. However, data regarding the dynamics and clinical relevance of ammonia levels during L-Asp therapy are lacking.
Procedure: We prospectively followed the dynamics of ammonia levels during L-Asp containing induction therapy according to the ALL-BFM 2000 protocol in 10 pediatric patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), in order to assess the possible relevance of ammonia levels for clinical practice and its use as a possible surrogate parameter of L-Asp enzyme activity.
Results: We observed a significant elevation of ammonia levels 1 day after intravenous L-Asp administration with ammonia levels reaching up to the seventh fold of normal values, followed by a steep decline to basal values within another 2 days, resulting in an undulating course of ammonia concentrations during L-Asp containing induction treatment.
Conclusions: Although there are potential neurotoxic properties of ammonia, central nervous system (CNS) toxicity has not been observed in our study and is generally not seen as a common side effect of L-Asp therapy. Furthermore, due to the characteristic fluctuation profile, ammonia levels may represent a suitable surrogate parameter of L-Asp enzyme activity and may enable the monitoring of silent inactivation of L-Asp.
(c) 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.