Reduced folate and serum vitamin metabolites in patients with rectal carcinoma: an open-label feasibility study of pemetrexed with folic acid and vitamin B12 supplementation

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The objectives of this single-center, open-label, phase II study were to evaluate (a) the feasibility and safety of neoadjuvant administration of pemetrexed with oral folic acid and vitamin B12 (FA/B12) in newly diagnosed patients with resectable rectal cancer and (b) intracellular and systemic vitamin metabolism. Patients were treated with three cycles of pemetrexed (500 mg/m2, every 3 weeks) and FA/B12 before surgery. The reduced folates tetrahydrofolate, 5-methyltetrahydrofolate, and 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate were evaluated from biopsies in tumor tissue and in adjacent mucosa. Serum levels of homocysteine, cystathionine, and methylmalonic acid were also measured. All 37 patients received three cycles of pemetrexed; 89.2% completed their planned dosage within a 9-week feasibility time frame. Neither dose reductions nor study drug-related serious adverse events were reported. Reduced folate levels were significantly higher in tumor tissue compared with adjacent mucosa at baseline. After FA/B12 administration, tissue levels of reduced folates increased significantly and remained high during treatment in both tumor and mucosa until surgery. Serum levels of cystathionine increased significantly compared with baseline after FA/B12 administration, but then decreased, fluctuating cyclically during pemetrexed therapy. Homocysteine and methylmalonic acid levels decreased significantly after FA/B12 administration, and remained below baseline levels during the study. These results indicate that administration of three neoadjuvant cycles of single-agent pemetrexed, every 3 weeks, with FA/B12 in patients with resectable rectal cancer is feasible and tolerable. Tissue and serum vitamin metabolism results demonstrate the influence of pemetrexed and FA/B12 on vitamin metabolism and warrant further study.

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