Key Points

  • At least 24 weeks of EPAG administration in patients with rSAA may be required to determine responsiveness to drug.

  • EPAG may result in rapid emergence of abnormal metaphases but not expansion of clones with somatic mutations in myeloid candidate genes.


Eltrombopag (EPAG) received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of refractory severe aplastic anemia (rSAA) based on treatment of 43 patients with doses escalating from 50 to 150 mg daily for 12 weeks. Response kinetics suggested that more prolonged administration of EPAG at a dose of 150 mg could speed and improve response rates. We enrolled 40 patients with rSAA in a study of EPAG 150 mg daily, with a primary end point of response at 24 weeks. Twenty (50%) of 40 patients responded at 24 weeks; 5 (25%) of 20 would have been deemed nonresponders at 12 weeks, the end point of the previous study. Fifteen of the 19 responding patients continuing on EPAG had drug discontinued for robust response; 5 of the 15 required EPAG re-initiation for relapse, with all recovering response. To analyze risk of clonal progression, we combined long-term data from the 83 patients with rSAA enrolled in both studies. Evolution to an abnormal karyotype occurred in 16 (19%), most within 6 months of EPAG initiation. Targeted deep sequencing/whole-exome sequencing was performed pre-EPAG and at primary response end point and/or time of clonal evolution or longest follow-up. Cytogenetic evolution did not correlate with mutational status, and overall mutated allele fractions of myeloid cancer genes did not increase on EPAG. In summary, extended administration of EPAG at a dose of 150 mg for 24 weeks rescued responses in some patients with rSAA not responding at 12 weeks. The temporal relationship between clonal evolution and drug exposure suggests that EPAG may promote expansion of dormant preexisting clones with an aberrant karyotype. The studies were registered at as #NCT00922883 and #NCT01891994.

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