Selective killing of tumors deficient in methylthioadenosine phosphorylase: a novel strategy.

Research paper by Martin M Lubin, Adam A Lubin

Indexed on: 30 May '09Published on: 30 May '09Published in: PloS one


The gene for methylthioadenosine phosphorylase (MTAP) lies on 9p21, close to the gene CDKN2A that encodes the tumor suppressor proteins p16 and p14ARF. MTAP and CDKN2A are homozygously co-deleted, with a frequency of 35 to 70%, in lung and pancreatic cancer, glioblastoma, osteosarcoma, soft-tissue sarcoma, mesothelioma, and T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. In normal cells, but not in tumor cells lacking MTAP, MTAP cleaves the natural substrate, 5'-deoxy-5'-methylthioadenosine (MTA), to adenine and 5-methylthioribose-1-phosphate (MTR-1-P), which are then converted to adenine nucleotides and methionine. This distinct difference between normal MTAP-positive cells and tumor MTAP-negative cells led to several proposals for therapy. We offer a novel strategy in which both MTA and a toxic adenine analog, such as 2,6-diaminopurine (DAP), 6-methylpurine (MeP), or 2-fluoroadenine (F-Ade), are administered. In MTAP-positive cells, abundant adenine, generated from supplied MTA, competitively blocks the conversion of an analog, by adenine phosphoribosyltransferase (APRT), to its active nucleotide form. In MTAP-negative tumor cells, the supplied MTA cannot generate adenine; hence conversion of the analog is not blocked.We show that this combination treatment--adenine analog plus MTA--kills MTAP-negative A549 lung tumor cells, while MTAP-positive human fibroblasts (HF) are protected. In co-cultures of the breast tumor cell line, MCF-7, and HF cells, MCF-7 is inhibited or killed, while HF cells proliferate robustly. 5-Fluorouracil (5-FU) and 6-thioguanine (6-TG) may also be used with our strategy. Though neither analog is activated by APRT, in MTAP-positive cells, adenine produced from supplied MTA blocks conversion of 5-FU and 6-TG to their toxic nucleotide forms by competing for 5-phosphoribosyl-1-pyrophosphate (PRPP). The combination of MTA with 5-FU or 6-TG, in the treatment of MTAP-negative tumors, may produce a significantly improved therapeutic index.We describe a selective strategy to kill tumor cells lacking MTAP.