Prednisolone at a dose of 1 mg/kg/day (PRD) for 2 to 4 weeks is administered as front-line therapy to most adult patients with immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) who need to be treated. Recent results from 2 large single arm studies suggest high dose dexamethasone (DEX) as first-line treatment may produce a high sustained response rate. Therefore, we conducted prospective randomized trial comparing DEX with PRD as initial treatment of adult patients with newly diagnosed ITP.
We did a randomized multicentre trial based on a 1:1 design. We enrolled treatment-naïve patients, 16 years or older, with a diagnosis of ITP according to the practice guidelines of the American Society of Hematology and a platelet count of 30×109/L or less. Patients with ITP were randomly assigned to receive either DEX 40 mg/day on day 1–4 (If the platelet count dropped below 3×109/L within the first six months, another four-day course of DEX was given) or PRD 1mg/kg/day for 4 weeks. The primary object of this study was the sustained response (platelet count>30×109/L after 6 months) rate. Second objectives are response rate at 4 weeks, predictors of steroid response, and toxicity. This study is registered at http://clinicaltrials.gov as NCT00451594.
From September 2005 to December 2009, 151 adults with ITP were randomly assigned (76 patients in the DEX arm, 75 patients in the PRD arm). Overall demographics were balanced between arms; Median age 44 years old (DEX:PRD 44 years old:44 years old); 69.5% female (DEX:PRD 73.7%:65.3%); median initial platelet count 17×109/L (DEX:PRD 16×109/L:17×109/L). Of 151 enrolled patients, 117 patients (57 patients in the DEX arm, 60 patients in the PRD arm) were evaluable in terms of sustained response. Sustained response rate by intention-to-treat (ITT) and per protocol were 25.0% and 33.3% in the DEX arm, 36.0% and 45.0% in the PRD arm, respectively (p=0.33 by ITT). Eight patients in the DEX arm and 17 patients in the PRD arm had a sustained platelet counts more than100×109/L. Fifteen patients had a sustained response after a single course of DEX and 6 patients among them required no further treatment during two to four year follow up. Median time to relapse in patients who had a sustained response was 1320 days and 1140 days, respectively. The response rate at day 28 was 68.2% in the DEX arm and 81.2% in the PRD arm. Pre-treatment platelet count was higher in patients who achieved sustained response (responder vs. non-responder: 17.1±7.8×109/L vs. 15.9±8.9×109/L). Eleven patients in the DEX arm and 8 patients in the PRD arm received splenectomy. Both treatments were well tolerated. Three patients represented side effects that were severe enough to discontinue the treatment in the PRD arm, including pneumonia (1), hyperglycemia (1), and myalgia (1). Six patients receiving DEX and 5 patients receiving PRD had G3 or more hyperglycemia.
One or two courses of DEX were not more effective than PRD in adults with ITP. However, 19.7% of adult ITP had a sustained response with a single course of DEX. Initial treatment with DEX could be useful for identifying patients who may not require prolonged steroid treatment.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.
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