Perinatal genotoxicity and carcinogenicity of anti-retroviral nucleoside analog drugs

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Abstract

The current worldwide spread of the human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1) to the heterosexual population has resulted in approximately 800 000 children born yearly to HIV-1-infected mothers. In the absence of anti-retroviral intervention, about 25% of the approximately 7000 children born yearly to HIV-1-infected women in the United States are HIV-1 infected. Administration of zidovudine (AZT) prophylaxis during pregnancy reduces the rate of infant HIV-1 infection to approximately 7%, and further reductions are achieved with the addition of lamivudine (3TC) in the clinical formulation Combivir. Whereas clinically this is a remarkable achievement, AZT and 3TC are DNA replication chain terminators known to induce various types of genotoxicity. Studies in rodents have demonstrated AZT-DNA incorporation, HPRT mutagenesis, telomere shortening, and tumorigenicity in organs of fetal mice exposed transplacentally to AZT. In monkeys, both AZT and 3TC become incorporated into the DNA from multiple fetal organs taken at birth after administration of human-equivalent protocols to pregnant dams during gestation, and telomere shortening has been found in monkey fetuses exposed to both drugs. In human infants, AZT-DNA and 3TC-DNA incorporation as well as HPRT and GPA mutagenesis have been documented in cord blood from infants exposed in utero to Combivir. In infants of mice, monkeys, and humans, levels of AZT-DNA incorporation were remarkably similar, and in newborn mice and humans, mutation frequencies were also very similar. Given the risk–benefit ratio, these highly successful drugs will continue to be used for prevention of vertical viral transmission, however evidence of genotoxicity in mouse and monkey models and in the infants themselves would suggest that exposed children should be followed well past adolescence for early detection of potential cancer hazard.

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