Hypertriglyceridemia during asparaginase treatment in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia correlates with antithrombin activity in adolescents

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Asparaginase (ASP) is a cornerstone in the treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). It is also known for its ability to cause side effects, such as allergy and pancreatitis, as well as lipid and coagulation disturbances. The most important laboratory abnormalities are hypertriglyceridemia (HTG) and low antithrombin (AT). HTG is usually considered to be transient and benign in children with ALL, whereas low AT activity predisposes to thrombosis. Studies on the incidence and significance of HTG in children with ALL are scarce, and their findings have not always been congruent. We investigated the incidence and significance of ASP-related HTG, defined as triglyceride values more than five times the upper normal limit, in children with ALL.


We analyzed the laboratory and clinical data of children diagnosed with ALL at the Karolinska Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden, from July 2008 to December 2014. Triglyceride and AT values were measured before each injection of pegylated ASP.


The study group comprised of 92 patients, aged 1–17.9 years at diagnosis (median 4.8 years), almost half (42/92, 46%) of whom had HTG. A significant negative correlation between triglyceride and AT values was observed in those aged over 10 years (P = 0.0002). No significant correlation was found between HTG and thrombosis, osteonecrosis, or pancreatitis.


Although common, ASP-associated HTG was not associated with other ASP-related toxicities. HTG correlated with decreased AT activity in older children, which may explain previous association between HTG and thrombosis. Larger studies are of interest with regard to establishing guidelines for HGT management.

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