Cancer Home > Cancer and Mercaptopurine

Adults and children who have a certain type of cancer may receive mercaptopurine (Purinethol®). This drug is specially approved to treat a type of bone marrow and blood cell cancer called acute lymphatic leukemia (ALL). It is used as a maintenance treatment for ALL and is used in combination with other treatments. It is not effective at preventing ALL from spreading to the central nervous system.
Mercaptopurine works by interfering with the way DNA replicates. Because cells need DNA to grow and divide, this medication can prevent the growth of cancer cells.
There are also some unapproved, or "off-label," uses for mercaptopurine, such as treating:
(Click What Is Mercaptopurine Used For? for more information on using mercaptopurine for cancer treatment. This article also offers detailed information on how this drug works and whether it is prescribed for older adults.)
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Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
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