Thiopurines have been widely used for the maintenance of remission or steroid sparing in patients with inflammatory bowel disease. However, potential drug-related adverse events frequently interfere with their use. Indeed, drug withdrawals associated with adverse reactions have been reported in approximately 25% of patients. To balance the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of thiopurines, regular monitoring of biomarkers (complete blood cell count, liver function test, and metabolic profiles), steady dose escalation, and pretreatment thiopurine S-methyltransferase (TPMT) genotype screening have been routinely recommended. However, the complex thiopurine metabolic pathway and individual differences attributed to pharmacogenetic diversity limit the effectiveness of these strategies in the optimization of thiopurine therapy. Recently, in an effort to facilitate more accurate and personalized prediction of thiopurine response or toxicity, novel genetic markers including NUDT15 and FTO genes were discovered. These discoveries are remarkable because TPMT screening has minimal efficacy for predicting myelosuppression especially in Asian populations, despite the fact that thee populations have a higher frequency of myelosuppression than Western populations. This review focuses on the current understanding of the metabolic pathway and the pharmacogenetics of thiopurines and suggests a personalized preventive strategy against potential adverse drug reactions to optimize their therapeutic application.
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