Our previous work has shown that incubation of K562 cells or lymphocytes from patients with advanced chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) with arabinosyl-2-fluoroadenine (F-ara-A) potentiates the rate of arabinosylcytosine 5′-triphosphate (ara-CTP) synthesis during subsequent treatment with arabinosylcytosine (ara-C). To test the biochemical modulation of ara-CTP in a clinical setting, we designed a protocol to administer fludarabine (Fludara, F-ara-AMP) and ara-C in a pharmacologically directed sequence for patients with CLL refractory to conventional fludarabine therapy. ara-C was infused in seven patients with progressive CLL at a dose rate that maximizes ara-CTP accumulation (0.5 g/m2 during 2 h). Fludarabine (30 mg/m2 during 30 min) was infused 20 h later, followed by a second, identical dose of ara-C at 24 h, when the concentration of F-ara-A 5′-triphosphate (F-ara-ATP) was maximal in CLL cells. Comparison of ara-CTP pharmacokinetics in circulating CLL cells demonstrated that the ara-CTP area under the curve increased by a median of 1.5-fold (range, 1.1- to 1.7-fold) after fludarabine infusion. Plasma pharmacokinetics indicated that neither the median steady-state ara-C concentrations nor the levels of its deamination product arabino-syluracil were significantly affected by fludarabine infusion. The median rate of ara-CTP elimination was slightly faster after fludarabine treatment (t1/2, 6.7 versus 5.8 h), suggesting that catabolism of ara-CTP was not responsible for the increased ara-CTP area under the curve. The rate of ara-CTP accumulation by CLL cells after fludarabine infusion, however, was increased by a median of 1.3-fold in seven of the eight patients (range, 1.2- to 1.8-fold); the peak occurred within 1 h of the end of the infusion. In vitro incubation of leukemic lymphocytes with F-ara-A before ara-C also showed a median 1.3-fold increase in the rate of ara-CTP accumulation. Thus, infusion of fludarabine before ara-C augments ara-CTP metabolism in leukemic lymphocytes. This knowledge should be considered in the design of combination chemotherapy.


Supported in part by Grants CA32839 and CA53311 from the National Cancer Institute, U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, and by Berlex Biosciences, Inc.

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