Prediction of severe toxicity in adult patients under treatment with 5-fluorouracil: a prospective cohort study

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5-Fluorouracil (5-FU) has long been used for the treatment of gastrointestinal tumors harboring interindividual variability in both the pharmacokinetic and the pharmacogenetic profiles, which in turn may lead to life-threatening toxicities. We carried out a prospective cohort study of adult patients initiating treatment with 5-FU between 2013 and 2015. Primary exposures of interest were the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase single nucleotide polymorphism in exons 4 and 7 and 5′-untranslated region-thymidylate synthase VNTR genotypes, in addition to baseline clinical and demographic variables. The primary outcome was the time to the occurrence of severe toxicity. We used a Cox regression model to evaluate patients’ survival and toxicity experience and its association with baseline characteristics and a priori determined genetic polymorphisms. A total of 197 patients were included, 40.1% developed severe toxicity during follow-up. Variables that were significantly associated with developing severe toxicity were the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer functional score [hazard ratio (HR): 0.98; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.97–0.99]; type of tumor [anus (HR: 2.50; 95% CI: 1.07–5.82), head and neck/esophagus/stomach (HR: 2.95; 95% CI: 1.64–5.33)] and 5-FU continuous infusion regimens over 4–5 days (HR: 9.35; 95% CI: 2.68–32.59). We found a significant association between baseline functional status, type of tumor and continuous infusion regimens and the occurrence of severe toxicity during the follow-up of patients receiving 5-FU. No association was found with the genotypic variants evaluated. Future validation and modeling of an everyday easy-to-use score to predict toxicity among these subgroup of patients remains warranted.

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