Secondary Logo

Journal Logo

Institutional members access full text with Ovid®

Methotrexate Polyglutamate Values in Children and Adolescents With Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia During Maintenance Therapy

Kandikonda, Pooja BS; Bostrom, Bruce MD

Journal of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology: August 2019 - Volume 41 - Issue 6 - p 429–432
doi: 10.1097/MPH.0000000000001530
Original Articles

Inadequate adherence to maintenance therapy is a major cause of relapse in patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Therapeutic monitoring of mercaptopurine (thiopurine) red cell metabolites to assess adherence has been available for many years. Recently a clinical laboratory improvement amendments of 1988-approved test for methotrexate with three polyglutamate residues (MTXPG3) measured in peripheral blood red cells was approved. MTXPG3 is the primary intracellular metabolite of methotrexate, and like thiopurine metabolites, is retained for the life of the red cell giving an estimate of drug exposure over time. Normative values for MTXPG3 are available for adults and children with rheumatoid arthritis on methotrexate monotherapy, which are not applicable for patients with ALL on maintenance. Older literature on the MTXPG3 fraction in children with ALL is limited. We examined the MTXPG3 levels from 123 samples in 76 patients with ALL on maintenance oral methotrexate and mercaptopurine that were collected for clinical care. Male individuals had significantly higher MTXPG3 levels than female individuals which was unrelated to absolute neutrophil count, age, serum creatinine, and average doses of methotrexate or mercaptopurine. The MTXPG3 5th, 10th, 90th, and 95th percentile values are 0, 8.4, 53, and 64, respectively with a median of 24.7 nmol/L. The low 5th percentile MTXPG3 reflects 6 samples from 3 patients, age 16 to 21 years that were considered poorly adherent before collecting the specimen. As with red cell thiopurine (mercaptopurine) metabolites, MTXPG3 normative values may provide useful information to monitor for poor patient adherence or methotrexate toxicity during maintenance chemotherapy in ALL.

Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN

At the time of this study P.K. was a high school senior.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Bruce Bostrom, MD, 2525 Chicago Avenue CSC 175, Minneapolis, MN 55404 (e-mail:

Received May 20, 2017

Accepted May 10, 2019

Copyright © 2019 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.