Home | | Pharmacology | Purine Antagonists

Chapter: Basic & Clinical Pharmacology : Cancer Chemotherapy

Purine Antagonists

6-Mercaptopurine (6-MP) was the first of the thiopurine analogs found to be effective in cancer therapy.



6-Mercaptopurine (6-MP) was the first of the thiopurine analogs found to be effective in cancer therapy. This agent is used primarily in the treatment of childhood acute leukemia, and a closely related analog, azathioprine, is used as an immunosuppressive agent . As with other thiopurines, 6-MP is inactive in its parent form and must be metabolized by hypoxanthine-guanine phosphoribosyl transferase (HGPRT) to form the monophosphate nucleotide 6-thioinosinic acid, which in turn inhibits several enzymes of de novo purine nucleotide synthesis (Figure 54–6). The monophosphate form is eventually metabolized to the triphosphate form, which can then be incorporated into both RNA and DNA. Significant levels of thioguanylic acid and 6-methylmercaptopurine ribotide (MMPR) are also formed from 6-MP. These metabolites may contribute to its cytotoxic action.

6-Thioguanine (6-TG) also inhibits several enzymes in the de novo purine nucleotide biosynthetic pathway (Figure 54–6). Various metabolic lesions result, including inhibition of purine nucleotide interconversion; decrease in intracellular levels of gua-nine nucleotides, which leads to inhibition of glycoprotein synthe-sis; interference with the formation of DNA and RNA; and incorporation of thiopurine nucleotides into both DNA and RNA. 6-TG has a synergistic action when used together with cytarabine in the treatment of adult acute leukemia.

6-MP is converted to an inactive metabolite (6-thiouric acid) by an oxidation reaction catalyzed by xanthine oxidase, whereas 6-TG undergoes deamination. This is an important issue because the purine analog allopurinol, a potent xanthine oxidase inhibitor, is frequently used as a supportive care measure in the treatment of acute leukemias to prevent the development of hyperuricemia that often occurs with tumor cell lysis. Because allopurinol inhibits xan-thine oxidase, simultaneous therapy with allopurinol and 6-MP would result in increased levels of 6-MP, thereby leading to excessive toxicity. In this setting, the dose of mercaptopurine must be reduced by 50–75%. In contrast, such an interaction does not occur with 6-TG, which can be used in full doses with allopurinol.

The thiopurines are also metabolized by the enzyme thiopurine methyltransferase (TPMT), in which a methyl group is attached to the thiopurine ring. Patients who have a pharmacogenetic syndrome involving partial or complete deficiency of this enzyme are at increased risk for developing severe toxicities in the form of myelosuppression and gastrointestinal toxicity with mucositis and diarrhea.


Fludarabine phosphate is rapidly dephosphorylated to 2-fluoro-arab-inofuranosyladenosine and then phosphorylated intracellularly by deoxycytidine kinase to the triphosphate. The triphosphate metabo-lite interferes with the processes of DNA synthesis and DNA repair through inhibition of DNA polymerase-α and DNA polymerase-β. The triphosphate form can also be directly incorporated into DNA, resulting in inhibition of DNA synthesis and function. The diphos-phate metabolite of fludarabine inhibits ribonucleotide reductase, leading to inhibition of essential deoxyribonucleotide triphosphates. Finally, fludarabine induces apoptosis in susceptible cells through as yet undetermined mechanisms. This purine nucleotide analog is used mainly in the treatment of low-grade non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). It is given parenterally, and up to 25–30% of parent drug is excreted in the urine. The main dose-limiting toxicity is myelosuppression. This agent is a potent immuno-suppressant with inhibitory effects on CD4 and CD8 T cells. Patients are at increased risk for opportunistic infections, including fungi, herpes, and Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia (PCP). Patients should receive PCP prophylaxis with trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (dou-ble strength) at least three times a week, and this should continue for up to 1 year after stopping fludarabine therapy.


Cladribine (2-chlorodeoxyadenosine) is a purine nucleoside analog with high specificity for lymphoid cells. Inactive in its parent form, it is initially phosphorylated by deoxycytidine kinase to the mono-phosphate form and eventually metabolized to the triphosphateform, which can then be incorporated into DNA. The triphos-phate metabolite can also interfere with DNA synthesis and DNA repair by inhibiting DNA polymerase-α and DNA polymerase-β, respectively. Cladribine is indicated for the treatment of hairy cell leukemia, with activity in other low-grade lymphoid malignancies such as CLL and low-grade non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It is nor-mally administered as a single continuous 7-day infusion; under these conditions, it has a very manageable safety profile with the main toxicity consisting of transient myelosuppression. As with other purine nucleoside analogs, it has immunosuppressive effects, and a decrease in CD4 and CD8 T cells, lasting for over 1 year, is observed in patients.

Study Material, Lecturing Notes, Assignment, Reference, Wiki description explanation, brief detail
Basic & Clinical Pharmacology : Cancer Chemotherapy : Purine Antagonists |

Privacy Policy, Terms and Conditions, DMCA Policy and Compliant

Copyright © 2018-2024 BrainKart.com; All Rights Reserved. Developed by Therithal info, Chennai.