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J Clin Oncol. 2008 Dec 20;26(36):5943-9. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2007.15.5770. Epub 2008 Nov 17.

Relationship of treatment-related cytopenias and response to lenalidomide in patients with lower-risk myelodysplastic syndromes.

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Department of Hematologic Oncology and Blood Disorders, Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute, Desk R35, 9500 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, OH 44195, USA.



Patients with myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) often require treatment with growth factors (GFs) or non-GF therapies. One non-GF drug, lenalidomide, is particularly effective at achieving transfusion independence (TI) in patients with lower-risk MDS with the del(5q) cytogenetic abnormality. However, approximately half of del(5q) patients and one quarter of non-del(5q) patients treated with lenalidomide experience significant cytopenias. Lenalidomide-induced cytopenias occurring early in treatment may serve as a surrogate marker of clonal suppression and, therefore, may be predictive of a TI response.


We analyzed 362 low-risk, transfusion-dependent patients with MDS, with or without the del(5q) abnormality, enrolled in two phase II studies (MDS-003 and MDS-002) to determine whether treatment-related cytopenias are correlated with lenalidomide response. Cytopenias were assessed during the first 8 weeks of therapy, and response was defined as TI; response predictors were explored in univariate and multivariate analyses.


Among patients with del(5q), 70% of those whose platelet count decreased by > or = 50% achieved TI, as compared with 42% of those whose platelet count remained stable or declined by less than 50% (P = .01). Among patients without baseline neutropenia, 82% of those whose absolute neutrophil count (ANC) decreased by > or = 75% achieved TI, as compared with 51% whose ANC remained stable or decreased by less than 75% (P = .02). These relationships were consistent in multivariate analyses. No relationship between the development of cytopenias and response could be established for lower-risk patients with MDS without del(5q).


These findings support the hypothesis that a direct cytotoxic effect of lenalidomide specific to the del(5q) clone may be indicative of a TI response.

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