Weekly standard doses of rh-EPO are highly effective for the treatment of anemic patients with low-intermediate 1 risk myelodysplastic syndromes

Enrico Balleari, Marino Clavio, Eleonora Arboscello, Andrea Bellodi, Andrea Bruzzone, Lisette Del Corso, Maria Vita Lucchetti, Maurizio Miglino, Caterina Passalia, Ivana Pierri, Irene Ponassi, Caterina Oneto, Omar Racchi, Marco Scudeletti, Luana Vignolo, Gabriele Zoppoli, Marco Gobbi, Riccardo Ghio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For more than 20 years erythropoietin (rHEPO) has largely been used to treat anemia in myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). Early clinical trials showed erythroid responses in no more than 15-25% of patients. In the last decade, a better selection of MDS patients suitable for a therapeutic challenge with rHEPO, alone or in combination with G-CSF, allowed for an increased response-rate, averaging around 40%. More recently, an even higher percentage of responses have been obtained using higher-doses of rHEPO (up to 80,000. IU/weekly) in lower-risk MDS patients. This treatment however, especially at such high doses, is costly and not easily affordable for prolonged periods. The aim of this study was to verify if the use of "standard" doses of rHEPO could induce a satisfying response-rate with a less expensive treatment schedule in IPSS-defined "lower-risk" MDS anemic patients. From January 2005 to December 2009 a total of 55 consecutive anemic (Hb ≤ 10 g/dL) patients (29 males, 26 females, median age 78 years) with low-intermediate-1 risk MDS were treated after informed consent with rHEPO (40,000. IU once a week subcutaneously) for at least 3 months; at the end of this period, erythroid response was assessed, and responders were allowed to continue the treatment indefinitely, whereas non-responders were considered "off study" Both efficacy and safety of the treatment were recorded and evaluated. After 3 months of treatment, 36 out of 55 (65.5%) patients achieved an erythroid response to rHEPO according to IWG 2006 criteria. Higher response-rates to rHEPO were related with both lower IPSS and particularly WPSS scores. Treatment was safe, and only 1 patient had to discontinue the treatment because of unmanageable side-effects. Among the 36 responders, 28 (77%) maintained the response after a median follow-up of 46 months.Our data indicate that standard doses of rHEPO are at least as effective as higher-doses for correcting anemia in lower-risk MDS patients; in this clinical scenario, this schedule allows for a consistent reduction of costs without precluding the achievement of a durable erythroid response.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1472-1476
Number of pages5
JournalLeukemia Research
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011


  • Anemia
  • Erythropoietic stimulating agents
  • Erythropoietin
  • IPSS
  • Low-risk myelodysplastic syndromes
  • WPSS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Hematology
  • Oncology


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