A patient-oriented approach to treatment of myelodysplastic syndromes

Mario Cazzola, Jeanne E. Anderson, Arnold Ganser, Eva Hellström-Lindberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and Objective. There are several therapeutic options for patients with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) but most of them are poorly effective and the potentially curative ones are available only for a minority of individuals. The aim of this article is to define a rational basis for a patient-oriented approach to treatment of MDS. Evidence and Information Sources. All four authors have done clinical studies of treatment of MDS, including stem cell transplantation, intensive and low-dose chemotherapy, and use of hematopoietic growth factors. They also participated in the Fourth International Symposium on MDS (Barcelona, 24-27 April 1997). In addition, the present review critically examines relevant articles and abstracts published in journals covered by the Science Citation Index® and Medline®. State of the Art and Perspectives. At present, the only two treatments that can prolong survival are allogeneic stem cell transplantation (SCT) and intensive chemotherapy, but only a minority of MDS patients can really benefit from them. The heterogeneity of MDS patients, the wide variety of patient inclusion criteria and transplant procedures used, and relatively small numbers of patients in the individual reports of allogeneic SCT make it difficult to draw many definitive conclusions. However, approximately 40% of patients with MDS who are eligible for allogeneic SCT are likely to be cured by this treatment. Intensive chemotherapy with a combination of cytosine arabinoside and an anthracycline should be offered to all patients with an increase in bone marrow blasts who are not eligible for allogeneic SCT, especially those patients up to 65 years of age. Complete remission rates are similar to those obtained in patients with acute myelogenous leukemia, but probability of long-term survival is low. The remaining treatments validated in clinical trials (erythropoietin and/or granulocyte colony-stimulating factor, low-dose cytosine arabinoside) can improve the efficiency of hematopoiesis in subsets of patients. Responsive individuals might experience an improvement in quality of life but very few studies have addressed this question so far. The majority of MDS patients still rely upon supportive therapy. A clinical decision path based on findings of clinical trials and the patient's expectations can help physicians in decision making. Because of the inadequacies of all current treatment modalities, participation in clinical trials should always be encouraged.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)910-935
Number of pages26
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1998


  • Myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology


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