Asparaginase

Asparaginase  is an enzyme that catalyzes the hydrolysis of asparagine to aspartic acid. It is marketed under the brand name Elspar, 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.

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; thus leukemic cells require high amount of 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.

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