The effectiveness of arabinosylcytosine (ara-C) for the treatment of acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) depends on the formation of its active metabolite, the triphosphate of ara-C (ara-CTP). Using biochemical modulation strategies to increase the accumulation of ara-CTP in leukemia blasts, a clinical protocol was designed combining 2- chlorodeoxyadenosine (CdA), an inhibitor of ribonucleotide reductase, and ara-C for adults with AML. The protocol stipulated an infusion of 1 g/m2 of ara-C over 2 hours on day 1. A continuous infusion of CdA (12 mg/m2/d) begun 24 hours later and continued for 5 days. Identical doses of ara-C were administered on days 3, 4, 5, and 6. Pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic interactions between CdA and ara-C during therapy were investigated. To complement these studies, molecular actions of the triphosphate of ara-C and CdA on DNA extension by human DNA polymerase alpha in an in vitro model system was conducted. In the circulating leukemia blasts of 7 of the 9 patients studied, ara-CTP pharmacokinetics showed a median 40% increase in the rate of ara-CTP accumulation after 24 hours of CdA infusion. The ex vivo effect of CdA on accumulation of ara-CTP in AML blasts was similar to that during therapy except that the enhancement was less. The DNA synthetic capacity of the circulating blasts was inhibited to a greater extent by administration of CdA and ara-C in combination than by either one alone. Additionally the lowered level of DNA synthesis was maintained until the next infusion of ara-C. Endogenous levels of deoxynucleotides increased 24 hours after ara-C infusion. Administration of CdA in general lowered the concentrations of all dNTPs. DNA pol alpha incorporated CdATP and ara-CTP with high affinity in a DNA primer extending over an oligonucleotide template of defined sequence. Human DNA polymerase alpha extended DNA primers terminated by CdA monophosphate (CdAMP) at its 3′-end by incorporating ara-C monophosphate (ara-CMP). The tandem incorporation of CdAMP and ara-CMP resulted in nearly complete inhibition of DNA primer extension. The insertion of two analogs in sequence, inhibition of ribonucleotide reductase, and the metabolic potentiation of ara-CTP by CdA infusion may be responsible for sustained inhibition of DNA synthesis in the circulating leukemia blasts during therapy with this combination regimen.

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