Clinical potential of elacytarabine in patients with acute myeloid leukemia.
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) has been treated for over four decades with standard induction chemotherapy including seven days of cytosine arabinoside (cytarabine, ara-C) infusion. Cytarabine, while effective in killing leukemic cells, is subject to development of several resistance mechanisms rendering the drug ineffective in many patients. Elacytarabine, a lipophilic 5'-elaidic acid ester or nucleoside analogue of cytosine arabinoside, was created with the intent of overcoming resistance mechanisms including reduced expression of the human equilibrative nucleoside transporter 1 (hENT1) required for cytarabine entry into cells, as well as increased activity of cytidine deaminase (CDA) which breaks down the active metabolite of cytarabine, ara-CTP. Elacytarabine enters cells independently of transporters, has a longer half life compared with cytarabine and is not subject to deactivation by CDA. Preclinical data were encouraging although subsequent clinical studies have failed to show superiority of elacytarabine compared with standard of care as monotherapy in patients with AML. Clinical trials utilizing elacytarabine in combination with anthracyclines are ongoing. Use of hENT1 expression as a predictive marker for cytarabine or elacytarabine response has been studied with no conclusive validation to date. Despite promising early results, the jury is still out in regards to this novel agent as an effective alternative to standard cytarabine therapy in acute leukemias, especially in combination with additional agents such as anthracyclines.
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