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Clinical decision-making and treatment of myelodysplastic syndromes

Journal Title: 
American Journal of Hematology
Primary Author: 
Hellstrom-Lindberg ES
Hellström-Lindberg ES, Kröger N
Original Publication Date: 
Thursday, December 28, 2023
Bone Marrow Disease(s): 

The myelodysplastic syndromes (MDSs) constitute a profoundly heterogeneous myeloid malignancy with a common origin in the hemopoietic stem cell compartment. Consequently, patient management and treatment are as heterogeneous. Decision-making includes identifying risk, symptoms, and options for an individual and conducting a risk-benefit analysis. The only potential cure is allogeneic stem cell transplantation, and albeit the fraction of patients with MDS who undergo transplant increase over time because of better management and increased donor availability, a majority are not eligible for this intervention. Current challenges encompass to decrease the relapse risk, the main cause of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation failure. Hypomethylating agents (HMAs) constitute firstline treatment for higher-risk MDSs. Combinations with other drugs as firstline treatment has, to date, not proven more efficacious than monotherapy, although combinations approved for acute myeloid leukemia, including venetoclax, are under evaluation and often used as rescue treatment. The treatment goal for lower-risk MDS is to improve cytopenia, mainly anemia, quality of life, and, possibly, overall survival. Erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs) constitute firstline treatment for anemia and have better and more durable responses if initiated before the onset of a permanent transfusion need. Treatment in case of ESA failure or ineligibility should be tailored to the main disease mechanism: immunosuppression for hypoplastic MDS without high-risk genetics, lenalidomide for low-risk del(5q) MDS, and luspatercept for MDS with ring sideroblasts. Approved therapeutic options are still scarcer for MDS than for most other hematologic malignancies. Better tools to match disease biology with treatment, that is, applied precision medicines are needed to improve patient outcome.