The DNA repair protein O(6)-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase (MGMT) plays a pivotal role in alkylating drug resistance. Here, we determined MGMT activity in primary and recurrent glioblastomas (GBM, WHO grade IV) of patients who received radiation therapy (RT) or RT plus chemotherapy with alkylating agents (temozolomide, chloroethylnitrosoureas). The mean MGMT activity of untreated GBM was 37 +/- 45 (range 0-205) fmol/mg proteins. In the 1st, 2nd and 3rd recurrences, MGMT activity increased from 66 +/- 50 (13-194) to 68 +/- 44 (14-143) and 182 +/- 163 (64-423) fmol/mg protein, respectively. Comparing patients who received RT only with RT plus chemotherapy, a significant increase of MGMT in 1st recurrences was only found after treatment with RT plus chemotherapy, indicating either selection of MGMT expressing cells or induction of the MGMT gene by alkylating agents. The p53 status was not significantly related to the MGMT expression level, although a trend for lower MGMT activity in p53 positively stained tumors was observed. Patients expressing MGMT activity of <or=30 fmol/mg protein in the pretreatment tumor had a significant better therapeutic response than patients expressing MGMT above this level, which was shown by Kaplan-Meyer curves and the recurrence free interval after primary tumor resection. In patients who received RT only, this correlation was not found. The data revealed a threshold of MGMT expression (30 fmol/mg protein) below which patients respond better to alkylating agents. Therefore, determination of MGMT activity in the primary tumor appears to be useful in predicting the outcome of GBM therapy.
(c) 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.