Asparaginase (EC 18.104.22.168) is an enzyme that catalyzes the hydrolysis of asparagine to aspartic acid. It is also marketed under the brand names Elspar®, Oncaspar, and Erwinase to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and is also used in some mast cell tumor protocols.  Unlike other chemotherapy agents, it can be given as an intramuscular, subcutaneous, or intravenous injection without fear of tissue irritation.
Additional recommended knowledge
Mechanism of action
The rationale behind asparaginase is that it takes advantage of the fact that ALL leukemic cells are unable to synthesize the non-essential amino acid asparagine whereas normal cells are able to make their own asparagine. These leukemic cells depend on circulating asparagine. Asparaginase however catalyzes the conversion of L-asparagine to aspartic acid and ammonia. This deprives the leukemic cell of circulating asparagine.
The main side effect is an allergic or hypersensitivity reaction. Asparaginase has also been associated with pancreatitis. Additionally, it can also be associated with a coagulopathy as it decreases protein synthesis, including synthesis of coagulation factors and anticoagulant factor, leading to bleeding or thrombotic events such as stroke.
- ^ Appel IM, van Kessel-Bakvis C, Stigter R, Pieters R (2007). "Influence of two different regimens of concomitant treatment with asparaginase and dexamethasone on hemostasis in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia". doi:10.1038/sj.leu.2404793. PMID 17554375.
|Chemotherapeutic agents/Antineoplastic agents (L01)|
|Alkylating and alkylating-like agents||Nitrogen mustards: (Chlorambucil, Chlormethine, Cyclophosphamide, Ifosfamide, Melphalan). Nitrosoureas:(Carmustine, Fotemustine, Lomustine, Streptozocin). Platinum (alkylating-like): (Carboplatin, Cisplatin, Oxaliplatin, BBR3464). Busulfan, Dacarbazine, Procarbazine, Temozolomide, ThioTEPA, Uramustine|
|Antimetabolites||Folic acid: (Aminopterin, Methotrexate, Pemetrexed, Raltitrexed). Purine:(Cladribine, Clofarabine, Fludarabine, Mercaptopurine, Pentostatin, Thioguanine). Pyrimidine:(Capecitabine, Cytarabine, Fluorouracil, Floxuridine, Gemcitabine)|
|Spindle poison/mitotic inhibitor||Taxane: (Docetaxel, Paclitaxel). Vinca: (Vinblastine, Vincristine, Vindesine, Vinorelbine).|
|Cytotoxic/antitumor antibiotics||Anthracycline family: (Daunorubicin, Doxorubicin, Epirubicin, Idarubicin, Mitoxantrone, Valrubicin) - streptomyces (Actinomycin, Bleomycin, Mitomycin, Plicamycin) - Hydroxyurea|
|Topoisomerase inhibitors||Camptotheca: (Camptothecin, Topotecan, Irinotecan), Podophyllum:(Etoposide, Teniposide)|
|CI monoclonal antibodies||Receptor tyrosine kinase (Cetuximab, Panitumumab, Trastuzumab) - CD20 (Rituximab, Tositumomab) - other (Alemtuzumab, Bevacizumab, Gemtuzumab)|
|Photosensitizers||Aminolevulinic acid, Methyl aminolevulinate, Porfimer sodium, Verteporfin|
|Tyrosine kinase inhibitors||Dasatinib, Erlotinib, Gefitinib, Imatinib, Lapatinib, Nilotinib, Sorafenib, Sunitinib|
|Other||retinoids (Alitretinoin, Tretinoin) - Altretamine, Amsacrine, Anagrelide, Arsenic trioxide, Asparaginase (Pegaspargase), Bexarotene, Bortezomib, Denileukin diftitox, Estramustine, Ixabepilone, Masoprocol, Mitotane|
|Carbon-nitrogen non-peptide hydrolases (EC 3.5)|
|3.5.1 - Amidohydrolases||Asparaginase - Glutaminase - Urease - Biotinidase - Aspartoacylase - Ceramidase -Aspartylglucosaminidase - Fatty acid amide hydrolase - Histone deacetylase (Sirtuin)|
|3.5.2||Barbiturase - Beta-lactamase|
|3.5.4 - Aminohydrolases||Guanine deaminase - Adenosine deaminase - AMP deaminase - Inosine monophosphate synthase - DCMP deaminase - GTP cyclohydrolase I|
|Other||Nitrilase - Thiaminase II|