Thiopurine drugs such as 6-mercaptopurine are used as chemotherapeutic agents and immunosuppressive drugs. Genetic polymorphisms that affect this enzymatic activity are correlated with variations in sensitivity and toxicity to such drugs within individuals. About 1/300 individual is deficient for the enzyme.
Measurement of TPMT activity is encouraged prior to commencing the treatment of patients with thiopurine drugs such as azathioprine, 6-mercaptopurine and 6-thioguanine. Patients with low activity (10% prevalence) or especially absent activity (prevalence 0.3%) are at a heightened risk of drug-induced bone marrow toxicity due to accumulation of the unmetabolised drug. Reuther et al. found that about 5% of all thiopurine therapies will fail due to toxicity. This intolerant group could be anticipated by routine measurement of TPMT activity. There appears to be a great deal of variation in TPMT mutation, with ethnic differences in mutation types accounting for variable responses to 6MP.
Genetic variants of TPMT have also been associated with cisplatin-induced ototoxicity in children. TPMT is now listed as a pharmacogenomic biomarker for adverse drug reactions to cisplatin by the FDA.
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