Background: Treatment with rhu-Epo ameliorates anemia in a subset of LR-MDS patients, however, effective salvage therapy is limited. LEN promotes erythroid lineage competence and expansion of primitive erythroid precursors in vitro. In the MDS-002 and MDS-005 trials, treatment with LEN improved erythropoiesis, yielding RBC transfusion-independence in 26% of azanucleoside-naïve, transfusion-dependent (TD) LR, non-del(5q) MDS patients for a median of 10.2 and 7.75 months, respectively. We previously reported that LEN restores Epo-responsiveness in MDS progenitors by inducing formation of lipid rafts enriched for signaling competent JAK2/Epo-receptor complexes and excluding large isoforms of the JAK2/lyn kinase-phosphatase CD45 (McGraw K, et. al. PLoS One 2014; Basiorka A, et. al. Cancer Res 2016). In a pilot study of Epo-refractory MDS patients, addition of EA yielded erythroid responses in 28% of patients who were unresponsive to LEN alone, suggesting that LEN may overcome resistance and augment response to rhEpo (Komrokji R, et. al. Blood 2012). To test this hypothesis, we performed a randomized phase III trial comparing treatment with LEN to LEN+EA in LR non-del(5q) MDS patients who were refractory to, or not candidates for treatment with rhEpo.

Methods: Patients with Low or Intermediate-1 (Int-1) risk IPSS MDS with hemoglobin <9.5 g/dL who were unresponsive to rhEpo treatment or were TD (>2 units/mo) with serum Epo >500mU/mL were eligible for study. Patients were stratified by serum Epo level and prior rhEpo (EA vs. darbepoetin vs. none) then randomized to treatment with LEN 10 mg/d x21d q4wk (Arm A) or LEN + EA 60,000U SC/wk (Arm B). Primary endpoint was IWG 2006 major erythroid response (MER) rate after 4 cycles. Arm A non-responders were offered cross-over to combined therapy. Secondary endpoints included analysis of response biomarkers.

Results: Between April 2009 and May 2016, 248 patients were enrolled and 195 were randomized and will be included in the primary analysis. Interim analysis of 163 patients (Arm A, 81; B, 82) accrued before July 2015 showed that the study met predefined stopping criteria. Baseline characteristics were balanced between arms. Median age was 74 years (range, 47-89) receiving a median of 2 RBC units/mo (0-8). Overall, 64 (39%) patients had Low IPSS risk and 90 (55%) Int-1 risk. Among these, 150 received prior rhuEpo (92%) and 27, azanucleosides (17%). In an ITT analysis, MER rate was significantly higher with combination therapy, Arm B 25.6% (n=21) vs. Arm A 9.9% (n=8) (P=0.015). Among 116 patients evaluable at week 16, 33.3% (20/60) and 14.3% (8/56) achieved MER, respectively (P=0.018), with a median response duration of 25.4 months vs. not reached in Arm A responders. Response to combined treatment was associated with baseline CD45-isoform distribution in erythroid precursors. Patients achieving MER had a significantly lower CD45 RA+RB:RO ratio (median, 1.51) compared to non-responders (median, 4.21; P=0.04), favoring homo-dimerization of the short CD45-RO isoform and inhibition of phosphatase activity. MER rate in Arm B patients with a low isoform ratio (< median) was 72.7% vs. 18.2% in the high ratio group (P=0.03). Thirty-four Arm A non-responders crossed over to combination-therapy with only 1 MER. There was no difference in the frequency or distribution of >Grade 3, non-hematologic AEs.

Conclusions: LEN restores sensitivity to rhEpo in Epo-refractory LR-non-del(5q) MDS patients to yield durable and significantly higher rates of erythroid response to combination treatment without added toxicity. Erythroid CD45 isoform profile may serve as a response biomarker for selection of candidates for combination therapy.


Bennett:Celgne: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees. Altman:Syros: Honoraria; Janssen: Honoraria; BMS: Honoraria; Novartis: Honoraria. Komrokji:Celgene: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees, Research Funding; Novartis: Consultancy, Speakers Bureau. Schiffer:Teva: Other: DSMB member; BMS: Research Funding; Ariad: Research Funding; Pfizer: Other: DSMB member.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.

This icon denotes a clinically relevant abstract

Sign in via your Institution