Hypomethylating agents (HMAs) are the standard of care for patients with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). However, only around 50% of patients respond to these agents, and responses tend to be transient, with loss of response frequently happening within 2 years and being associated with very poor prognosis and limited therapeutic options. Identification of patients who will respond to HMAs is challenging. Mechanisms underlying resistance to HMAs are not clear yet. Recently, absence of response has been associated with increased cell-cycle quiescence among the hematopoietic progenitor cells. There are no standard-of-care options for patients after HMA failure. However, the increasing knowledge of MDS pathogenesis has led to the development of new potential therapies, including HMAs with longer half-life and exposure, inhibition of the antiapoptotic BCL2 protein with venetoclax or inhibition of immune-checkpoint regulatory proteins such as PD-1 or CTLA-4, innate immunity and targeting of CD33/CD3 with multiple monoclonal antibodies. In addition, multiple targeted agents are opening opportunities to treat subgroups of patients whose disease harbors mutations in TP53, IDH, FLT3, and genes involved in splicing machinery. Newer formulations of intensive chemotherapy and its different combinations may be considered a valid option in selected patients after HMA failure. Finally, decision making at the time of failure of response to HMAs should be personalized, taking into account that allogenic stem-cell transplantation remains the only therapeutic approach with curative potential in these patients. In the current review, we will focus on all the above aspects.
- myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS)