C677T and A1298C MTHFR polymorphisms, a challenge for antifolate and fluoropyrimidine-based therapy personalisation

Eur J Cancer. 2009 May;45(8):1333-51. doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2008.12.004. Epub 2009 Jan 12.


Pharmacogenetics represents an exciting, new promising tool for the individualisation of therapy. Several genetic polymorphisms and haplotypes have been considered in an attempt to optimise therapy with specific drugs but, up to now, their clinical applications remain limited. 5,10-Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR), a key enzyme of one-carbon metabolism, catalyses the irreversible conversion of 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate to 5-methyltetrahydrofolate. Two common non-synonymous variants, the C677T (Ala222Val) and A1298C (Glu429Ala), were described for the MTHFR gene and associated with a decreased enzymatic activity and an alteration of intracellular folate distribution. Other MTHFR polymorphisms with marginal impact on enzymatic activity were also reported. Several published clinical studies have investigated the potential predictive role of C677T and A1298C genetic variants on toxicity and efficacy of antifolate and fluoropyrimidine agents, such as methotrexate (MTX), 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) and raltitrexed. Many of these studies show significant associations with MTHFR variants, but others report neither association nor opposite results. A significant interaction between MTHFR polymorphisms and nutrient/environmental factors (i.e. folate status) as well as the ethnicity was reported. Finally, a haplotype approach and the combined analysis of multiple folate pathway gene variants seem to provide a more comprehensive strategy compared to single-locus investigations. The aim of this review is to critically analyse the available data on the importance of MTHFR polymorphisms in modulating the clinical outcome of antifolate and fluoropyrimidine therapies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / drug effects
  • Fluorouracil / therapeutic use
  • Folic Acid Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Methotrexate / therapeutic use
  • Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase (NADPH2) / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Pharmacogenetics / methods
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*
  • Quinazolines / therapeutic use
  • Thiophenes / therapeutic use
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic
  • Folic Acid Antagonists
  • Quinazolines
  • Thiophenes
  • Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase (NADPH2)
  • raltitrexed
  • Fluorouracil
  • Methotrexate