Variability in prescribed 6-mercaptopurine and lack of adherence to 6-mercaptopurine could result in intra-individual variability in systemic exposure to 6-mercaptopurine (measured as erythrocyte thioguanine nucleotide levels) in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The impact of intra-individual variability in systemic exposure to 6-mercaptopurine on relapse risk is unknown.
To determine impact of high intra-individual variability in 6-mercaptopurine systemic exposure on relapse risk in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Prospective longitudinal design; daily adherence monitoring, 6-mercaptopurine dose-intensity and erythrocyte thioguanine nucleotide levels (pmol/8*10^8 erythrocytes) measured for 6 consecutive months per patient; cohort followed for a median of 6.7 years from diagnosis.
Children’s Oncology Group study (COG-AALL03N1); 94 participating institutions; ambulatory care setting.
Participants included 742 children meeting the following eligibility criteria: diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukemia at ≤21 years; in first continuous remission at study entry; receiving self/parent/caregiver-administered oral 6-mercaptopurine during maintenance. Median age at diagnosis: 5 years; 68% were male; 43% with NCI-based high-risk disease.
Main Outcome Measures
Adherence measured electronically using Medication Event Monitoring System that recorded date/time of each 6-mercaptopurine bottle opening; adherence rate defined as ratio of days of 6-mercaptopurine bottle opened to days when 6-mercaptopurine prescribed. 6-mercaptopurine doses actually prescribed were divided by planned protocol doses (75mg/m2/day) to compute average monthly dose-intensity. Electronically-monitored adherence (68,716 person-days), 6-mercaptopurine dose-intensity (120,439 person-days) and monthly erythrocyte thioguanine nucleotide levels (n=3,944 measurements) contributed to the analysis. Using intra-individual coefficients of variation (CV %), patients were classified as having stable (CV % <85th percentile) vs. varying (CV % ≥85th percentile) indices.
Adjusting for clinical prognosticators, patients with 6-mercaptopurine non-adherence (mean adherence rate <95%) were at a 2.7 fold increased risk of relapse (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.3 to 5.6, p=0.01). Among adherers, high intra-individual variability in thioguanine nucleotide levels contributes to increased relapse risk (HR=4.4, 95% CI, 1.2 to 15.7, p=0.02). Furthermore, adherers with varying thioguanine nucleotide levels had varying 6-mercaptopurine dose-intensity (OR=4.5, p=0.006) and 6-mercaptopurine drug interruptions (OR=10.2, p=0.003).
Conclusions and Relevance
These findings emphasize the need to maximize 6-mercaptopurine adherence and maintain steady thiopurine exposure to minimize relapse in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.