Asparaginase Erwinia chrysanthemi effectively depletes plasma glutamine in adult patients with relapsed/refractory acute myeloid leukemia

Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 2018 Jan;81(1):217-222. doi: 10.1007/s00280-017-3459-6. Epub 2017 Nov 8.


Depletion of glutamine (Gln) has emerged as a potential therapeutic approach in the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), as neoplastic cells require Gln for synthesis of cellular components essential for survival. Asparaginases deplete Gln, and asparaginase derived from Erwinia chrysanthemi (Erwinaze) appears to have the greatest glutaminase activity of the available asparaginases. In this Phase I study, we sought to determine the dose of Erwinaze that safely and effectively depletes plasma Gln levels to ≤ 120 μmol/L in patients with relapsed or refractory (R/R) AML. Five patients were enrolled before the study was halted due to issues with Erwinaze manufacturing supply. All patients received Erwinaze at a dose of 25,000 IU/m2 intravenously three times weekly for 2 weeks. Median trough plasma Gln level at 48 h after initial Erwinaze administration was 27.6 μmol/L, and 80% (lower limit of 1-sided 95% CI 34%) of patients achieved at least one undetectable plasma Gln value (< 12.5 μmol/L), with the fold reduction (FR) in Gln level at 3 days, relative to baseline, being 0.16 (p < 0.001 for rejecting FR = 1). No dose-limiting toxicities were identified. Two patients responded, one achieved partial remission and one achieved hematologic improvement after six doses of Erwinaze monotherapy. These data suggest asparaginase-induced Gln depletion may have an important role in the management of patients with AML, and support more pharmacologic and clinical studies on the mechanistically designed asparaginase combinations in AML.

Keywords: Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML); Asparaginase Erwinia Chrysanthemi (Erwinaze); Asparaginase-induced glutamine depletion; Glutamine addiction in AML; Isocitrate Dehydrogenase Mutation (IDH); Leukemia metabolism.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase I
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Asparaginase / administration & dosage*
  • Dickeya chrysanthemi / enzymology*
  • Female
  • Glutamine / blood*
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / blood
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / drug therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Recurrence
  • Remission Induction
  • Young Adult


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Glutamine
  • Asparaginase