O6-alkylguanine-DNA alkyltransferase in cutaneous T-cell lymphoma: Implications for treatment with alkylating agents

M. Eileen Dolan*, Bradford L. McRae, Elizabeth Ferries-Rowe, Michael Belanich, Gijs A. Van Seventer, Joan Guitart, David Pezen, Timothy M. Kuzel, Daniel B. Yarosh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Mycosis fungoides is a low-grade cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. Early treatment often involves the use of topical chemotherapy such as mechlorethamine or carmustine although single-agent oral chemotherapy with alkylators is common for advanced disease. Recently, in a Phase I study of the new alkylating agent temozolomide, two mycosis fungoides patients experienced a complete response. The mechanism of resistance to alkylating drugs such as temozolomide is thought to be due to the presence in tumor cells of the DNA repair protein, O6-alkylguanine-DNA alkyltransferase (AGT). The protein mediates a reaction with the O6-position of guanine in DNA, removing the lesion and leaving guanine intact. We, therefore, examined the levels of AGT in CD4+ T lymphocytes obtained by negative antibody selection from the blood of noncancerous individuals and mycosis fungoides patients, and in paraffin-embedded sections from mycosis fungoides patch, plaque, or tumor lesions and cells from involved lymph nodes. AGT protein levels were measured by quantitative immunofluorescence microscopy using a monoclonal antibody against human AGT. Using this approach, the mean level of our positive control (AGT-expressing cells) was 84,807 molecules/nucleus; values below 5,000 molecules/nucleus are considered very low. The mean AGT level in CD4+ T lymphocytes from noncancerous and cancerous individuals was 18,618 (n = 12) and 8,593 (n = 5), respectively. The mean fraction of outliers in circulating CD4+ T lymphocytes from mycosis fungoides patients was statistically significantly lower than T cells in lymph nodes. AGT molecules/nucleus from lymph node biopsies from 8 of 10 patients showed low (< 10,000 molecules/nucleus) or undetectable levels (n = 5) of AGT. The mean AGT level from samples of mycosis fungoides patch/plaque and tumor was also low at 221 (n = 4) and 2,363 (n = 6), respectively. Surprisingly, Hut78, a mycosis fungoides T-cell lymphoma cell line, was positive for AGT activity (median: 77,700 molecules/nucleus), and Hut102 - another mycosis fungoides cell line - was low (median: 5,990 molecules/nucleus). Because AGT is a primary means of cell resistance to alkylating agents, the low level of AGT in neoplastic T lymphocytes from patients with mycosis fungoides suggests that treatment with alkylating agents producing O6-alkylguanine adducts, such as carmustine or temozolomide, may produce improved clinical outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2059-2064
Number of pages6
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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