George F. Atweh, Joseph DeSimone, Yogen Saunthararajah, Hassana Fathallah, Rona S. Weinberg, Ronald L. Nagel, Mary E. Fabry, Robert J. Adams

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44 Scopus citations


The outlook for patients with sickle cell disease has improved steadily during the last two decades. In spite of these improvements, curative therapies are currently available only to a small minority of patients. The main theme of this chapter is to describe new therapeutic options that are at different stages of development that might result in further improvements in the outlook for patients with these disorders. Dr. Joseph DeSimone and his colleagues had previously made the important observation that the hypomethylating agent 5-azacytidine can reverse the switch from adult to fetal hemoglobin in adult baboons. Although similar activity was demonstrated in patients with sickle cell disease and beta-thalassemia, concern about the toxicity of 5-azacytidine prevented its widespread use in these disorders. In Section I, Dr. DeSimone discusses the role of DNA methylation in globin gene regulation and describe recent clinical experience with decitabine (an analogue of 5-azacytidine) in patients with sickle cell disease. These encouraging studies demonstrate significant fetal hemoglobin inducing activity of decitabine in patients who fail to respond to hydroxyurea. In Section II, Dr. George Atweh continues the same theme by describing recent progress in the study of butyrate, another inducer of fetal hemoglobin, in patients with sickle cell disease and beta-thalassemia. The main focus of his section is on the use of a combination of butyrate and hydroxyurea to achieve higher levels of fetal hemoglobin that might be necessary for complete amelioration of the clinical manifestations of these disorders. Dr. Atweh also describes novel laboratory studies that shed new light on the mechanisms of fetal hemoglobin induction by butyrate. In Section III, Dr. Ronald Nagel discusses the different available transgenic sickle mice as experimental models for human sickle cell disease. These experimental models have already had a significant impact on our understanding of the pathophysiology of sickle cell disease. Dr. Nagel describes more recent studies in which transgenic sickle mice provide the first proof of principle that globin gene transfer into hematopoietic stem cells inhibits in vivo sickling and ameliorates the severity of the disease. Although stroke in adult patients with sickle cell disease is not as common as in children, adult hematologists, like their pediatric colleagues, need to make management decisions in adult patients with a stroke or a history of stroke. Dr. Robert Adams has led several large clinical studies that investigated the role of transfusions in the prevention of stroke in children with sickle cell disease. Much less is known, however, about the prevention of first or subsequent strokes in adult patients with sickle cell disease. In Section IV, Dr. Adams provides some general guidelines for the management of adult patients with stroke while carefully distinguishing between recommendations that are evidence-based and those that are anecdotal in nature.


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