Neurotoxicity after the administration of methotrexate continues to worry physicians. However, inadequate folinic acid rescue is often not considered as a cause of this complication. To clarify whether adequate folinic acid rescue prevents methotrexate-induced neurotoxicity without reducing the cure rate in childhood ALL, published evidence that supported or refuted this claim was investigated. A literature search was conducted and the authors of the relevant studies were contacted. The published data supported the contention that neurotoxicity can be prevented by adequate folinic acid rescue even after very high doses of methotrexate. The safe minimum dose of folinic acid can be defined in terms of the dose of methotrexate given; the time to start of rescue is probably less important. There was no evidence that higher doses of folinic acid, such as those used after methotrexate in the treatment of osteosarcoma, rescue leukemia cells. No change in cure rate was found in relation to changes in scheduling or clinically relevant doses of folinic acid rescue. The accumulation of folinic acid in the cerebrospinal fluid did not seem to be of clinical relevance. No studies indicate that doses of folinic acid after high-dose methotrexate administration interfere with the killing of leukemia cells, nor that delaying the start of rescue beyond a certain point increases the antileukemic effect; neurotoxicity will, however, be increased. Review of current protocols that use low-dose folinic acid rescue and are associated with neurotoxicity is highly recommended.
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