Successful treatment of neoplastic disease has been impeded by the lack of therapeutic agents which specifically destroy tumor cells. Enzymes which selectively deplete substrates required by tumor cells, but not by normal tissue, could improve therapeutic indices dramatically. Presently, microbial asparaginases are used clinically for treating acute lymphocytic leukemia. While these enzymes should destroy neoplastic cells and spare normal tissues, their use is accompanied by many toxic effects and immunosuppression. The administration of Escherichia coli or Erwinia carotovora asparaginase depletes circulating glutamine as well as asparagine. It has been suggested that this glutaminase activity may be responsible for the observed toxicities. We have isolated a glutaminase‐free asparaginase from Vibrio succinogenes with potent antilymphoma activity. Previously, we demonstrated that administration of Vibrio asparaginase does not cause the immunosuppression of humoral or cell‐mediated responses associated with treatment by other microbial enzymes. In the present communication we have evaluated the hepatotoxic effects of different asparaginases since liver damage is the major toxicity associated with treatment by these microbial enzymes. BALB/c mice treated with 50 IU of E. coli asparaginase daily for 4 days exhibited diffuse microfatty infiltration within hepatocytes throughout the liver. Cross‐sections of liver from V. succinogenes asparaginase‐treated mice appeared normal as compared to specimens from control animals. Quantitation of the total amount of extractable lipid from the livers of E. coli asparaginase‐treated animals indicated a 45% and 127% increase in lipid concentration as compared to controls after 4 and 5 days of treatment, respectively. The Vibrio enzyme did not cause a change in extractable lipid concentration as compared to control animals. Plasma antithrombin III activity and albumin, triglyceride and cholesterol concentrations all decreased in E. coli asparaginase‐treated mice, confirming hepatotoxicity. No modifications in plasma proteins were observed in mice treated with asparaginase from V. succinogenes. The plasma lipids did decrease minimally but only the levels of cholesterol were shown to be statistically significant from those of controls. The data strongly support the concept that specific asparagine depletion is not significantly hepatotoxic. More importantly, the asparaginase from V. succinogenes may serve as a potent antileukemic agent without causing damage to normal tissues.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research