Experimental studies of the hematologic and immune system toxicity of nucleoside derivatives used against HIV infection
Adverse effects stemming from the therapeutic use of dideoxynucleoside derivatives continue to occur in patients with AIDS or AIDS-related complex. For example, the continued use of 3'-azido-3'-deoxythymidine (AZT) and 2',3'-didoxycytidine (ddC), both of which confer clinical benefits in AIDS patients, may be complicated by anemia, neutropenia and thrombocytopenia and ddC also causes peripheral neuropathy. Subsequently, the National Toxicology Program (NTP) has undertaken efforts to define and characterize the toxicities associated with currently employed and potential AIDS therapeutics in experimental animals, with particular emphasis on the hematopoietic and immune systems. In addition to AZT and ddC, 2',3'-dideoxyadenosine (ddA), 2',3'-dideoxyinosine (ddI) and 2',3'-didehydrodideoxythymidine (d4T) have been examined. The present studies describe: (1) the development of a poorly regenerative macrocytic anemia in mice exposed to AZT or ddC. This anemia demonstrates a rapid and progressive time course of toxicity and reversibility after cessation of treatment; (2) the selective suppression of erythroid progenitor cells in mice exposed to d4T without concomitant effects on myeloid stem cells. Myelotoxicity appears to show metabolism-dependent strain-specificity and is more evident following in vitro exposure than in vivo exposure; and (3) the immunosuppressive effects following subchronic (30-day) exposure. Of the nucleoside derivatives studied, only ddA and ddI altered immune function and these changes were confined to suppression of antibody responses. It can be concluded that the overall similarities in the hematopoietic and immune system effects between rodents and humans indicate that such animal toxicology studies provide important information relevant to the toxicity of these drugs.