, Volume 68, Issue 7, pp 901-912
Date: 17 Sep 2012

Novel Thrombopoietic Agents

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The underlying problem in idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) has traditionally been recognized as accelerated platelet destruction. However, recent studies have provided evidence that the pathophysiology of ITP is more complex, and impaired platelet production has emerged as one of the mechanisms contributing to the thrombocytopenia. On these grounds, second-generation thrombopoietic agents have been used in clinical trials to stimulate platelet production in ITP patients who are not responsive to standard treatments. These new molecules bear no structural resemblance to thrombopoietin (TPO) but still bind and activate the TPO receptor. Studies have been completed for two TPO receptor agonists: romiplostim (formerly AMG 531) and eltrombopag (formerly SB497115). Romiplostim is a recombinant protein defined as a peptibody. Results of phase I–II trials published recently demonstrated that romiplostim given as a weekly subcutaneous injection for 1–6 weeks results in doubling of platelet counts and an increase to >50 × 109/L in most treated patients with minimal adverse effects. Eltrombopag is an orally available, small organic compound. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled phase III trial, ITP patients were given daily oral treatment with placebo or eltrombopag 50 mg. Platelet responses were observed in 59% of eltrombopag-treated patients and in 16% of patients in the placebo arm. No significant adverse events were seen. Other thrombopoietic agents in development, such as AKR-501 (formerly YM 477), appear promising in healthy volunteers. Ongoing phase III clinical trials will reveal the potential of these agents in the management of ITP prior to splenectomy and for long-term maintenance therapy, as well as their relative benefit compared with standard of care treatment.