Modulation of both endogenous folates and thymidine enhance the therapeutic efficacy of thymidylate synthase inhibitors

C L van der Wilt, H H Backus, K Smid, L Comijn, G Veerman, D Wouters, D A Voorn, D G Priest, M A Bunni, F Mitchell, A L Jackman, G Jansen, G J Peters

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Plasma levels of folates and thymidine in mice are about 10-fold higher than in humans and may influence the therapeutic efficacy of thymidylate synthase (TS) inhibitors, such as 5-fluorouracil (5FU) and the antifolates pemetrexed (MTA) and raltitrexed (RTX). Therefore, we tested their therapeutic efficacy in various murine tumor models, grown in mice on a normal and a folate-depleted diet, with high and low thymidine kinase (TK) levels. MTA and RTX were inactive against Colon-26-10 [doubling times gained by treatment; growth delay factor (GDF), 0.5 and 0.3, respectively], whereas 5FU was very active (GDF, >10; complete cures). Colon-26-10/F, grown in mice on a folate-depleted diet, was more sensitive to RTX and MTA (GDF, 2.1 and 1.3, respectively) but not to 5FU (GDF, 1.2); however, leucovorin reversed the effect leading to cures. Folate depletion did not reverse resistance of Colon-26A and Colon-26G (low TK) to MTA and RTX, whereas leucovorin only enhanced the 5FU effect in Colon-26A and Colon-26A/F. Folic acid at 15 mg/kg did not improve the therapeutic efficacy of MTA in folate-deficient mice. The folate-depleted diet decreased the reduced folates in Colon-26A/F and Colon-26-G/F tumors less (4-5-fold; P < 0.01) than in Colon-26-10/F tumors (8-fold; P < 0.001). Folate depletion increased TS levels 2-3-fold in all of the models and TK levels 6-fold (P < 0.01) in Colon-26G/F, explaining the lack of activity of MTA and RTX in Colon-26G/F. In contrast, TK-deficient FM3A/TK tumors were much more sensitive to RTX, MTA, and 5FU than parent FM3A tumors, which have comparable TS levels. The rate of thymidine phosphorylysis varied considerably in all of the tumors without a clear relation to antitumor activity. In conclusion, tumor folates may potentiate (5FU) or protect (antifolates). Murine tumor models should combine low folates and low thymidine rescue to optimize preclinical testing of antifolates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3675-81
Number of pages7
JournalCancer Research
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2001

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