Background

NUDT15 R139C is an Asian-prevalent genetic variant related to azathioprine (AZA) intolerance in patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). However, it remains unclear how to utilize the genotyping results to improve the step-up dosing strategy with an already low starting dose in Asian practice.

Methods

Clinical data of eligible IBD patients who received AZA therapy and NUDT15 R139C testing were retrospectively collected. The relationship between NUDT15 genotype, AZA doses, and AZA-induced toxicity and efficacy were comprehensively analysed.

Results

A total of 159 patients were included for toxicity analysis. Compared with the wild genotype, patients heterozygous for R139C are more prone to developing myelotoxicity and alopecia (P =0.007; P =0.042). In particular, they had a 5.4-fold risk of developing myelotoxicity when AZA dosage was increased from 25 mg/d to 50 mg/d (P <0.001). Regarding efficacy, 115 patients who had received AZA for >4 months and maintained clinical remission on AZA monotherapy were included for further analysis. R139C heterozygotes were finally titrated to a significantly lower dose than the wild genotype [median (interquartile range): 0.83 (0.75–0.96) vs 1.04 (0.89–1.33) mg/kg/d, P =0.001], whereas the clinical remission rates did not differ between groups (P =0.88).

Conclusions

IBD patients with R139C heterozygote are highly susceptible to AZA-induced myelotoxicity at an escalated dose of 50 mg/d. Thus, they may require a smaller dose increase after a starting dose of 25 mg/d. The final target dose of these patients could be set lower than that of the wild genotypes without compromising efficacy.

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