Chemotherapy | Aplastic Anemia and MDS International Foundation (AAMDSIF) Return to top.


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If you have MDS and have a high-risk or intermediate-2 risk IPSS score, you have a higher risk of developing Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML). To prevent this from happening, your doctor may prescribe intensive chemotherapy in order to kill bone marrow cells that have an abnormal size, shape, or look.

How does it work?

Chemotherapy for MDS patients involves the use of medicines that kill cells cancer cells called cytotoxic agents. Chemotherapy hurts healthy cells along with abnormal ones. So you may need to stay in the hospital for a few weeks after treatment. During this time, you will receive transfusions of red blood cells and platelets. You will also take medicine to fight infection.

These medicines are divided into low-dose and high-dose treatments.

Low-dose chemotherapy medicines include:

  • Ara-C (cytarabine)
  • Hydrea® (hydroxyurea)

High-dose chemotherapy medicines include:

  • Ara-C (cytarabine), daunorubicin, idarubicin, and mitoxantrone used together

How well does it work?

Approximately 40 to 50 out of 100 patients have no MDS symptoms after receiving high-dose chemotherapy. But, for nearly 90 out of 100 patients, the disease returns within 5 years and for most, within 2 years. High-dose chemotherapy rarely provides a cure.

​What are common side effects?

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Mouth sores
  • Diarrhea
  • Hair loss

AAMDSIF does not recommend, endorse, or make any representation about the efficacy, appropriateness or suitability of any drug, treatment or therapy listed on this website. Some therapies listed on our site are considered experimental for the treatment of bone marrow failure diseases. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding any therapy, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.