Thrombocytopenia in MDS: Epidemiology, mechanisms, clinical consequences and novel therapeutic strategies

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22 Scopus citations


Thrombocytopenia is commonly seen in myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) patients, and bleeding complications are a major cause of morbidity and mortality. Thrombocytopenia is an independent factor for decreased survival and has been incorporated in newer prognostic scoring systems. The mechanisms of thrombocytopenia are multifactorial and involve a differentiation block of megakaryocytic progenitor cells, leading to dysplastic, hypolobated and microscopic appearing megakaryocytes or increased apoptosis of megakaryocytes and their precursors. Dysregulated thrombopoietin (TPO) signaling and increased platelet destruction through immune or nonimmune mechanisms are frequently observed in MDS. The clinical management of patients with low platelet counts remains challenging and approved chemotherapeutic agents such as lenalidomide and azacytidine can also lead to a transient worsening of thrombocytopenia. Platelet transfusion is the only supportive treatment option currently available for clinically significant thrombocytopenia. The TPO receptor agonists romiplostim and eltrombopag have shown clinical activity in clinical trials in MDS. In addition to thrombopoietic effects, eltrombopag can inhibit leukemic cell proliferation via TPO receptor-independent effects. Other approaches such as treatment with cytokines, immunomodulating drugs and signal transduction inhibitors have shown limited activity in selected groups of MDS patients. Combination trials of approved agents with TPO agonists are ongoing and hold promise for this important clinical problem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)536-544
Number of pages9
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Cancer Research
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

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