The Thiopurine Tale: An Unexpected Journey

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Abstract

Exactly 70 years ago [1951] mercaptopurine was discovered by Gertrude Elion as a novel treatment option for acute leukaemia. A total of three thiopurines (also thioguanine [1950] and azathioprine [1957]) were developed over time. These immunosuppressive drugs were also successfully introduced a few decades later to prevent rejection of transplanted organs and to treat several autoimmune diseases. For her discovery of thiopurines and other antimetabolite drugs, in 1988 Elion was rewarded, together with George Hitchings and James Black, with the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Important steps have been made in recent years to unravel its metabolism, mode of action and pharmacogenetics. Today thiopurine [based] therapy remains an essential immunosuppressive approach in treating patients with inflammatory bowel disease.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1177-1183
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Crohn's & colitis
Volume16
Issue number7
Early online date12 Jan 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2022

Keywords

  • Thiopurines
  • inflammatory bowel disease

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