Methotrexate-related central neurotoxicity: clinical characteristics, risk factors and genome-wide association study in children treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

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Symptomatic methotrexate-related central neurotoxicity, 'MTX neurotoxicity', is a severe toxicity experienced during acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) therapy with potential long-term neurologic complications. Risk factors and long-term outcomes require further study. We conducted a systematic, retrospective review of 1251 consecutive Australian children enrolled on BFM or COG-based protocols between 1998-2013. Clinical risk predictors for MTX neurotoxicity were analyzed using regression. A genome-wide association study (GWAS) was performed on 48 cases and 537 controls. The incidence of MTX neurotoxicity was 7.6% (n=95/1251), at a median of 4 months from ALL diagnosis and 8 days after intravenous or intrathecal MTX. Grade 3 elevation of serum aspartate aminotransferase (P=0.005, OR 2.31 (1.28-4.16)) in induction/consolidation was associated with MTX neurotoxicity, after accounting for the only established risk factor, age a10 years. Cumulative incidence of CNS relapse was increased in children where intrathecal MTX was omitted following symptomatic MTX neurotoxicity (n=48) compared to where intrathecal MTX was continued throughout therapy (n=1174) (P=0.047). Five-year CNS relapsefree survival was 89.2%±4.6% when intrathecal MTX was ceased compared to 95.4%±0.6% when intrathecal MTX was continued. Recurrence of MTX neurotoxicity was low (12.9%) for patients whose intrathecal MTX was continued after their first episode. The GWAS identified SNPs associated with MTX neurotoxicity near genes regulating neuronal growth, neuronal differentiation and cytoskeletal organization (P>1E-06). In conclusion, increased serum aspartate aminotransferase and age a10 years at diagnosis were independent risk factors for MTX neurotoxicity. Our data do not support cessation of intrathecal MTX after a first MTX neurotoxicity event.

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