Genetic variations of the enzymes involved in chemotherapy metabolism in cancer patients may play a role in determining relapse and toxicity risks. Methotrexate is a key drug in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) treatment; it inhibits DNA replication by blocking the conversion of 5,10 methylene tetrahydrofolate to 5-methylene tetrahydrofolate by methylene tetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR). MTHFR is central to folate metabolism and has two common functional polymorphisms (C677>T and A1298>C). The present study aimed to assess the prevalence of MTHFR polymorphisms C677>T and A1298>C in Egyptian children with ALL and the relation to the frequency of drug-induced complications and relapse rate. Forty ALL patients were included in the study. They were treated according to modified ALL-BFM 90 protocol, and were followed up for 3.1–6.5 years. The severity and duration of hepatic, mucosal and infectious complications during therapy were reported. MTHFR genotyping was done with a PCR-based restriction fragment length polymorphism assay. The MTHFR C677>T polymorphic allele frequencies were 40, 27.5, and 32.5% for TT, CT, and CC genotypes, respectively among the studied ALL patients. The MTHFR A1298>C polymorphic allele frequencies were 40, 35, and 25% for AA, AC, and CC genotypes, respectively. Methotrexate therapy was significantly associated with increased grade III/IV toxicity in TT genotype: diarrhea in 81.3%, oral mucositis in 81.3%, elevated transaminases in 87.5%, neutropenia in 78.7% compared to values of 7.7, 7.7, 15.3, and 7.7% in CC genotype, respectively (P < 0.0001, P < 0.0001, P < 0.0001, and P = 0.03). The 677 TT genotype was significantly associated with relapse in 5 years in 56.3%, compared to 18.2% in CT and 0% in CC alleles. The overall 5 years survival was significantly lower in 677 TT (50%) compared with CC genotypes (92.3%) (P = 0.001). No significant relation was found between MTHFR A1298C polymorphism and the risks of therapy induced complications or relapse rate in the studied ALL patients. MTHFR TT genotype is significantly associated with increased mucosal and hepatic toxicity during methotrexate therapy as well as increased relapse rate in childhood ALL. Because of the relatively high prevalence of the TT genotype in the studied Egyptian children with ALL, MTHFR gene polymorphisms should be studied in large multicenter studies; and dosage modification of methotrexate in the ALL treatment protocols should be considered based on the MTHFR gene pattern.
aPediatric Department, Faculty of Medicine, Ain Shams University, Egypt
bPediatric and Clinical Pathology Departments, Egypt
cNational Research Center, Cairo, Egypt
Received 29 May, 2008
Revised 20 July, 2009
Accepted 24 July, 2009
Correspondence to Dr Eman A. El-Ghouroury, MD, National Research Center, Cairo, Egypt E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org