Four patients with refractory chronic lymphocytic leukemia were treated with the adenosine deaminase inhibitor, 2′-deoxycoformycin, and initially received 4 mg/m2 i.v. weeky. Clinical responses to therapy varied: Patient A had a minimal response; whereas Patient D showed an 85% decrease in lymphocyte count at 2 wk; and Patients B and C had intermediate responses. The pretreatment mononuclear cell adenosine deaminase activities, which ranged from 1.6 to 44.6 nmol adenosine/h/106 cells, decreased to approximately 1 nmol adenosine/h/106 cells 24 h following 2′-deoxycoformycin, and increased to 15 to 50% of the pretreatment activity prior to the second drug treatment. The clinical response to 2′-deoxycoformycin was unrelated to the pre- or posttreatment adenosine deaminase activities or to the rate of return of enzyme activities following treatment. The plasma deoxyadenosine levels and the leukemic cell dATP concentrations rose slightly with therapy, but there was no correlation between the magnitude of increase and clinical response. No significant levels of DNA strand breaks were observed in the leukemic cells following treatment, although the NAD levels decreased slightly in two patients. When peripheral mononuclear cells from the patients and two controls were incubated in vitro for 24 h with 2′-deoxycoformycin and increasing concentrations of deoxyadenosine, a concentration-dependent increase in dATP and decrease in NAD were observed in both the patients and normals. The normal cells, and cells from two patients, developed a significant number of DNA strand breaks. However, there was no relationship between the formation of DNA breaks and the degree of accumulation of dATP or depletion of NAD, or between any of these changes and subsequent clinical responses to 2′-deoxycoformycin. Based on this study, it appears that the antitumor activity of 2′-deoxycoformycin in chronic lymphocytic leukemia is unrelated to the induction of DNA strand breaks or to changes in the levels of dATP or NAD in the leukemic cells.


Supported by a grant from the Medical Research Council, Canada.

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