Comparison of the antileukemic activity in vitro of dexamethasone and prednisolone in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia

G. J.L. Kaspers*, A. J.P. Veerman, C. Popp-Snijders, M. Lomecky, C. H. Van Zantwijk, L. M.J.W. Swinkels, E. R. Van Wering, R. Pieters

*Corresponding author for this work

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It is generally assumed that prednisolone (PRD) and dexamethasone (DXM) have equal glucocorticoid activity if PRD is given at sevenfold higher doses. Results of clinical studies of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) suggested that DXM is more potent relative to PRD than assumed. The purpose of this study was to determine the relative antileukemic activity of PRD phosphate and DXM phosphate in 133 untreated childhood ALL samples in vitro, using the 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-di-phenyltetrazolium-bromide (MTT) assay. There was a marked variation in antileukemic activity of both agents among the patient samples. The median LC50 (drug concentration lethal to 50% of the ALL cells) for PRD phosphate was 3.50 μM, for DXM phosphate 0.20 μM. The individually calculated ratios of the LC50 values for PRD and DXM phosphate showed a large range from 0.7 to >500, with a median of 16.2. This 16-fold difference could not be explained by differences between these glucocorticoids in stability, hydrolysis into unesterified drug, adhesion to the wall of the microculture plates, or protein binding, ALL cells were cross-resistant to PRD and DXM phosphate (correlation coefficient = 0.85, P < 0.000001). We conclude that the in vitro antileukemic activity of DXM phosphate is median 16-fold higher than that of PRIg phosphate, which contrasts to the generally assumed factor of 7. Based on the higher potency of DXM, and its more favorable pharmacokinetics as reported in the literature, DXM may be preferred to PRD as the glucocorticoid in the treatment of ALL.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)114-121
Number of pages8
JournalMedical and Pediatric Oncology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1996

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