Glucarpidase to combat toxic levels of methotrexate in patients
Jacalyn M Green
Department of Biochemistry, Midwestern University, IL, USA
Abstract: In January 2012, glucarpidase (Voraxaze®) received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration for intravenous treatment of toxic plasma methotrexate concentrations due to impaired renal clearance. Methotrexate, an antifolate agent, has been used for over 60 years in the treatment of various cancers. High-dose methotrexate has been particularly useful in the treatment of leukemias and lymphomas. However, even with aggressive hydration and urine alkalinization, such regimens can lead to acute renal dysfunction, as indicated by decreases in urine production and concomitant increases in blood urea nitrogen and serum creatinine levels. Because methotrexate is largely excreted by the kidneys, this can greatly potentiate tissue damage. Toxic levels of blood methotrexate can be rapidly and effectively decreased by intravenous administration of glucarpidase. Glucarpidase is a recombinant form of carboxypeptidase G2, a bacterial enzyme that rapidly cleaves methotrexate to form the amino acid glutamate and 2,4-diamino-N10-methylpteroic acid. Catabolites of methotrexate are much less toxic than the parent compound, and are primarily excreted by hepatic mechanisms. Glucarpidase has been available on a compassionate basis since the 1990s, and a variety of case reports and larger clinical trials have demonstrated the safety and efficacy of this drug in patients ranging in age from infants to the elderly and in a variety of races and ethnic groups. Glucarpidase should not be administered within 2 hours of leucovorin, because this agent is a reduced folate which competes with methotrexate for the enzyme and glucarpidase inactivates leucovorin. Side effects of glucarpidase are rare and relatively mild, and include paraesthesia, flushing, nausea, vomiting, pruritus, and headache. Glucarpidase has seen limited use in intrathecal treatment of methotrexate toxicity for which it is also effective. Future applications of this enzyme in chemotherapy continue to be an active area of research.
Keywords: glucarpidase, Voraxaze®, carboxypeptidase G2, methotrexate, antifolate, chemotherapy
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