ASPARAGINASE is a new antitumor agent which was reported by Tallal et al1 in 1969, to be effective in inducing remission in patients with acute leukemia. This agent is an enzyme which catalyzes the hydrolysis of asparaginase to L-aspartic acid and ammonia. Clinical trials have been conducted with a preparation derived from Escherichia coli.
The early experience of Hill et al2 in 1967 with asparaginase suggested that this agent inhibited only tumor cells and had no effect on normal host cells. However, more extensive clinical trials by Whitecar et al,3 have shown that there was a decrease in several plasma proteins such as fibrinogen, albumin, insulin, and amylase, indicating that asparaginase inhibited protein synthesis by normal cells.
During a clinical trial of asparaginase in patients with leukemia and metastatic cancer at the University of Texas, MD Anderson Hospital at Houston, several patients developed lethargy, confusion,