BACKGROUND: The use of 6-thioguanine has been proposed as a rescue drug for inflammatory bowel disease patients. Initial data on short-term efficacy and toxicity of 6-thioguanine were promising; however, these have been challenged by reports concerning its potential hepatotoxic effect (nodular regenerative hyperplasia). We proposed that these histological liver abnormalities may well be dose- or level-dependent. AIMS: We performed a prospective multi-centre study on the hepatotoxic potential of long-term and (as compared with prior studies) low-dose 6-thioguanine use. PATIENTS: Inflammatory bowel disease patients using 6-thioguanine for at least 30 consecutive months and consenting to undergo a liver biopsy were enrolled. METHODS: Liver biopsy specimens were scored by two pathologists, unaware of clinical data. Laboratory parameters, determined prior to initiation of 6-thioguanine therapy and prior to biopsy, were reviewed. RESULTS: Twenty-eight biopsies were analysed. The majority of patients (89%) were azathioprine and/or 6-mercaptopurine intolerant inflammatory bowel disease patients. In 26 patients (93%) no signs of nodular regenerative hyperplasia were detected; in two additional patients nodular regenerative hyperplasia could not be excluded due to inconclusive pathological findings. The mean 6-thioguanine dosage, 6-thioguaninenucleotides level, duration of use and cumulative dosage were 19.5mg, 564 pmol/8 x 10(8) RBC, 38 months and 22491 mg, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: We have demonstrated that low-dose 6-thioguanine maintenance therapy in inflammatory bowel disease patients is not likely to be associated with induction of nodular regenerative hyperplasia. The induction of nodular regenerative hyperplasia appears to be 6-thioguanine dose or 6-thioguaninenucleotides level dependent.
de Boer, N. K., Zondervan, P. E., Gilissen, L. P., den Hartog, G., Westerveld, B. D., Derijks, L. J., Bloemena, E., Engels, L. G., van Bodegraven, A. A., & Mulder, C. J. (2008). Absence of nodular regenerative hyperplasia after low-dose 6-thioguanine maintenance therapy in inflammatory bowel disease patients. Digestive and Liver Disease, 40(2), 108-13. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dld.2007.10.013