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Keywords:

  • asparaginase;
  • asparagine;
  • aspartic acid;
  • bone marrow;
  • childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia;
  • mesenchymal cells

Abstract

Background

Mesenchymal cells (MSCs) in bone marrow (BM) may produce asparagine and form protective niches for leukemic cells. In vitro, this led to high levels of asparagine and conferred asparaginase resistance to acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) cells. The aim of this study was to investigate whether MSCs or other cells in BM indeed produce such significant amounts of asparagine in vivo as to result in clinical asparaginase resistance.

Procedure

Twenty-six patients with newly diagnosed ALL were enrolled. All children received induction chemotherapy according to the Dutch Childhood Oncology Group (DCOG) ALL-10 protocol. Asparaginase was administered from days 12–33. Asparaginase, asparagine, aspartic acid, glutamine, and glutamic acid levels were measured in BM and blood at diagnosis, days 15, 33, and 79.

Results

Median asparaginase trough levels were not significantly different at days 15 and 33. Only at diagnosis, asparagine level was significantly higher in BM than in blood (P = 0.001). Asparagine levels were all below the lower limit of quantification in BM and blood at days 15 and 33. However, aspartic acid level in BM was significantly higher than in blood (P < 0.001) at diagnosis, and also at days 15, 33, and 79.

Conclusions

We demonstrate higher aspartic acid levels in BM compared to blood; however, no increased asparagine levels were seen during induction therapy containing asparaginase in BM when compared to blood. Therefore, increased asparagine synthesis by MSCs is of relevance for resistance to asparaginase of leukemic cells in vitro, but it is questionable whether this leads to asparaginase resistance in childhood ALL patients. Pediatr Blood Cancer 2013;60:258–261. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.