Background.Recently a novel bifunctional antibody (emicizumab) that binds both factor IXa (FIXa) and factor X (FX) has been used to treat hemophilia A. Emicizumab has proven remarkably effective as a prophylactic treatment for hemophilia A; however there are patients that still experience bleeding. An approach to safely and effectively treating this bleeding in hemophilia A patients with inhibitors is recombinant factor VIIa (rFVIIa). When given at therapeutic levels, rFVIIa can enhance tissue factor (TF) dependent activation of FX as well as activating FX independently of TF. At therapeutic levels rFVIIa can also activate FIX. The goal of this study was to assess the role of the FIXa activated by rFVIIa when emicizumab is added to hemophilia A plasma.

Methods. Thrombin generation assays were done in plasma using 100 µM lipid and 420 µM Z-Gly-Gly-Arg-AMC with or without emicizumab at 55 µg/mL which is the clinical steady state level. The reactions were initiated with low (1 pM) tissue factor (TF). rFVIIa was added at concentrations of 25-100 nM with 25 nM corresponding to the plasma levels achieved by a single clinical dose of 90 µg/mL. To study to the role of factor IX in the absence of factor VIII, it was necessary to create a double deficient plasma (factors VIII and IX deficient). This was done by taking antigen negative hemophilia B plasma and adding a neutralizing antibody to factor VIII (Haematologic Technologies, Essex Junction, VT, USA). Now varying concentrations of factor IX could be reconstituted into the plasma to give hemophilia A plasma.

Results. As expected, in the double deficient plasma with low TF there was essentially no thrombin generation. Also as expected from previous studies, addition of rFVIIa to double deficient plasma gave a dose dependent increase in thrombin generation through activation of FX. Interestingly addition of plasma levels of FIX to the rFVIIa did not increase thrombin generation. Starting from double deficient plasma, as expected emicizumab did not increase thrombin generation since no factor IX was present. Also, in double deficient plasma with rFVIIa, emicizumab did not increase thrombin generation. But in double deficient plasma with FIX and rFVIIa, emicizumab significantly increased thrombin generation. The levels of thrombin generation increased in a dose dependent fashion with higher concentrations of rFVIIa giving higher levels of thrombin generation.

Conclusion. Since addition of FIX to the double deficient plasma with rFVIIa did not increase thrombin generation, it suggests that rFVIIa activation of FX is the only source of the FXa needed for thrombin generation. So in the absence of factor VIII (or emicizumab) FIX activation does not contribute to thrombin generation. However, in the presence of emicizumab, while rFVIIa can still activate FX, FIXa formed by rFVIIa can complex with emicizumab to provide an additional source of FX activation. Thus rFVIIa activation of FIX explains the synergistic effect in thrombin generation observed when combining rFVIIa with emicizumab. The generation of FIXa at a site of injury is consistent with the safety profile observed in clinical use.

Disclosures

Monroe:Novo Nordisk:Research Funding.Ezban:Novo Nordisk:Current Employment.Hoffman:Novo Nordisk:Research Funding.

Author notes

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Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.