Homocysteine and methylmalonic acid: markers to predict and avoid toxicity from pemetrexed therapy. Journal Articles uri icon

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  • The purpose of this study was to identify predictive factors for severe toxicity caused by antifolate-chemotherapy using pemetrexed (ALIMTA, LY231514), as a model. Data on potential predictive factors for severe toxicity from pemetrexed were collected from 246 patients treated between 1995 and 1999. Multivariate stepwise regression methods were used to identify markers predictive of severe toxicity. Using a multiple logistic regression model allowed us to quantify the relative risk of developing toxicities and to generate a validated clinical hypothesis on ways to improve the safety profile of pemetrexed. Pretreatment total plasma homocysteine (tHcy) levels significantly predict severe thrombocytopenia and neutropenia with or without associated grade 3/4 diarrhea, mucositis, or infection. Pretreatment methylmalonic acid (MMA) levels significantly and independently predict grade 3/4 diarrhea and mucositis; however, these toxicities are still predicted by tHcy alone. Patients with elevated baseline levels of tHcy alone, or of both tHcy and MMA, were found to have a high risk of severe toxicity that led us to postulate that reducing tHcy would result in a reduction of severe toxicity with no harm to efficacy. This study points out for the first time the importance of pretreatment tHcy levels in predicting severe toxicity associated with an antifolate and sets the stage for a prospective clinical intervention to protect patients from pemetrexed-induced severe toxicity and possibly improve the drug's efficacy. Antifolates as a class have been associated with sporadic severe myelosuppression with gastrointestinal toxicity. Although infrequent, a combination of such toxicities can carry a high risk of mortality. This phenomenon had been unpredictable until now. Our work shows that by measuring tHcy, one can identify patients that are at risk of toxicity before treatment. Most importantly, decreasing homocysteine levels via vitamin supplementation leads to a better safety profile of pemetrexed and possibly to an improved efficacy.


  • Niyikiza, Clet
  • Baker, Sharyn D
  • Seitz, David E
  • Walling, Jackie M
  • Nelson, Katrina
  • Rusthoven, James
  • Stabler, Sally P
  • Paoletti, Paolo
  • Calvert, A Hilary
  • Allen, Robert H

publication date

  • May 2002

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