Both polyamine metabolism and DNA methylation play an important role in normal and malignant growth. Specific enzyme inhibitors or drugs that interfere with these metabolic pathways have proven to be potential anticancer agents. Since DNA methylation and polyamine metabolism depend on a common substrate, i.e. S-adenosylmethionine, interaction between both pathways can be expected. Little is known about the relationship between these pathways but studies are available indicating that polyamines and DNA methylation are directly or indirectly interconnected, metabolically as well as physiologically with respect to the regulation of cell growth, differentiation and cancer development. These considerations give rise to the possibility that, by targeting both pathways, a more profound and effective inhibitory effect on the growth of malignant cells can be achieved. In previous studies we showed that 6-MP (6-mercaptopurine) as well as MTX (methotrexate), well-known drugs in the treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, inhibit DNA methylation and induce apoptosis in malignant blood cells. Our recent results show that combined treatment with 6-MP, MTX and drugs interfering with polyamine metabolism has additive/synergistic effects on the growth, cell viability and/or apoptotic death of leukaemic cells. Such a combination therapy could have great clinical value for patients in which therapy using inhibitors of thiopurines/purine metabolism has failed.

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