Association of erythrocyte methotrexate-polyglutamate levels with the efficacy and hepatotoxicity of methotrexate in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: A 76-week prospective study

Chihiro Takahashi, Yuko Kaneko, Yutaka Okano, Hiroaki Taguchi, Hisaji Oshima, Keisuke Izumi, Kunihiro Yamaoka, Tsutomu Takeuchi

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Objective: To assess the utility of erythrocyte methotrexate-polyglutamate (MTX-PG) concentrations in determining the safety and efficacy of MTX in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Methods: 79 MTX-naïve patients with RA were enrolled in this prospective 76-week cohort study. MTX was initiated, and a predefined dose-escalation protocol was followed. Erythrocyte MTX-PG concentrations were measured using liquid chromatography. The associations of MTX-PG concentrations with disease activity and adverse events were analysed. Results: Dose escalation of MTX resulted in increased MTX-PG concentrations and a decrease in the mean Disease Activity Score in 28 joints (DAS28). A significant association was observed between total MTX-PG concentrations and ΔDAS28 at week 12 (β=-0.013, p=0.003) and at week 24 (β=-0.014, p=0.003). The maximum MTX-PG levels were significantly higher in patients presenting with elevated transaminases (≥100 IU/L) than in those without (146 vs 106 nmol/L, p=0.009). Receiver operating characteristic curve analysis revealed that a total MTX-PG concentrations of 83 nmol/L at week 12 was the threshold for a DAS28 improvement of ≥1.2 at week 24, and 105 nmol/L was the threshold for transaminases of ≥50 IU/L and 131 nmol/L for transaminases of ≥100 IU/L. MTX-PG concentrations were strongly influenced by body mass index and a serum albumin level. Conclusions: MTX-PG concentrations are a useful biomarker in MTX therapy, in terms of efficacy and safety.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere000363
JournalRMD Open
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Jan 1



  • Methotrexate
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Rheumatology
  • Immunology

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