Development of new methodology for therapeutic drug monitoring of thiopurine treatment

Sammanfattning: The three thiopurine drugs azathioprine (AZA), 6-mercaptopurine (6-MP) and 6-thioguanine (6-TG) are used to treat several diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). They are pro-drugs and are believed to act through the formation of thioguanine nucleotides (TGNs). Other important metabolites are the methylthioinosine nucleotides (meTINs). These metabolites are active in the white blood cells (WBCs).Most patients respond well to the thiopurine drugs but up to a third have to modify or discontinue their treatment due to adverse events or a lack of therapeutic effects. This could be caused by inter-patient variability in the metabolism of the drugs. Therapeutic drug monitoring (TDM) of thiopurine nucleotides in red blood cells (RBCs) is used to guide treatment. Current routine assays measure the nucleotides after hydrolysation to nucleic bases and are therefore unable to distinguish between mono-, di-, and triphosphates. Recently it was shown that these assays failed to predict the clinical outcome in about 40% of the patients. It has been suggested that measuring thioguanosine triphosphate (TGTP) (believed to be the most active of the TGNs) separately might increase the clinical value.An assay suitable for measuring thioguanosine mono- (TGMP) and diphosphate (TGDP) and TGTP, as well as methylthioinosine mono- (meTIMP), di- (meTIDP) and triphosphate (meTITP) separately in RBCs in clinical samples has been developed. In clinical studies of 82 IBD patients, we found no correlation between the thiopurine dose and metabolite levels in RBCs, thus illustrating the importance of metabolite measurements in the TDM of thiopurines.The TGN peak measured by the routine assay during TDM of patients treated with thiopurines consisted of TGTP and TGDP with a small contribution from TGMP. The meTIN also consisted of mono-, di- and triphosphates, but in different proportions, indicating differences in the formation. The inter-individual differences in nucleotide distribution were very small and a strong correlation between the different nucleotides and their respective sums was observed. As a consequence, measuring the mono-, di- and triphosphates separately was not beneficial in predicting remission, which was confirmed by the results from the clinical study.Further research into the metabolism and mode of action of thiopurine drugs is needed to understand the inter-patient variability in response and metabolite formation. An assay suitable for such studies, measuring TGNs and meTINs in cultured cells, has also been developed.