Blast Cell Methotrexate-Polyglutamate Accumulation In Vivo Differs by Lineage, Ploidy, and Methotrexate Dose in Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

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High-dose methotrexate (HDMTX) is a component of most treatment protocols for childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), yet recent studies of receptor-mediated transport and saturable polyglutamylation have questioned its rationale. To investigate this in vivo, methotrexate and its active polyglutamated metabolites (MTX-PG) were measured in bone marrow blasts obtained from 101 children randomized to single-agent therapy with either HDMTX (1 g/m2 per 24 h i.v., n = 47) or low-dose MTX (LDMTX, 30 mg/m2 by mouth every 6 h x 6, n = 54), before remission induction therapy. Blast concentrations of total MTX-PGs (median 460 vs 1380 pmol/10 (9) cells) and of long-chain MTX-glu4-6 were both significantly higher after HDMTX (P < 0.001). With either treatment, MTX-PGs were significantly higher in B-lineage blasts than in T-lineage blasts (LDMTX P = 0.001, HDMTX P = 0.03). In a multiple regression analysis of B-lineage ALL, blast MTX-PG was significantly related to MTX dose (or plasma MTX concentration), lymphoblast ploidy (hyperdiploid > nonhyperdiploid), and percentage S-phase. This is the first evidence that HDMTX achieves higher MTX-PG concentrations in ALL blasts in vivo, establishing a rationale for HDMTX in the treatment of childhood ALL, especially T-lineage or nonhyperdiploid B-lineage ALL, disease characteristics associated with a poor prognosis on conventional therapy. (J. Clin. Invest. 1994. 94:1996-2001.) Key words: T-lineage leukemia. hyperdiploidy. folylpolyglutamate synthetase

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