, Volume 98, Issue 1, pp 48-55

Pathophysiology and management of thrombocytopenia in bone marrow failure: possible clinical applications of TPO receptor agonists in aplastic anemia and myelodysplastic syndromes


Aplastic anemia is a bone marrow failure syndrome that causes pancytopenia and can lead to life-threatening complications. Bone marrow transplantation remains the standard of care for younger patients and those with a good performance status but many patients may not have a suitable donor. Immunosuppressive therapy is able to resolve cytopenias in a majority of patients with aplastic anemia but relapses are not uncommon and some patients remain refractory to this approach. Patients may require frequent blood and platelet transfusion support which is expensive and inconvenient. Life-threatening bleeding complications still occur despite prophylactic platelet transfusion. Thrombopoietin (TPO) mimetics, such as romiplostim and eltrombopag, were developed to treat patients with refractory immune thrombocytopenia but are now being investigated for the treatment of bone marrow failure syndromes. TPO is the main regulator for platelet production and its receptor (c-Mpl) is present on megakaryocytes and hematopoietic stem cells. Trilineage hematopoietic responses were observed in a recent clinical trial using eltrombopag in patients with severe aplastic anemia refractory to immunosuppression suggesting that these agents can provide a new therapeutic option for enhancing blood production. In this review, we discuss these recent results and ongoing investigation of TPO mimetics for aplastic anemia and other bone marrow failure states like myelodysplastic syndromes. Clonal evolution or progression to acute myeloid leukemia remains a concern when using these drugs in bone marrow failure and patients should only be treated in the setting of a clinical trial.