Red blood cell transfusions and iron overload in the treatment of patients with myelodysplastic syndromes.

Research paper by Elias E Jabbour, Hagop M HM Kantarjian, Charles C Koller, Ali A Taher

Indexed on: 12 Jan '08Published on: 12 Jan '08Published in: Cancer


Approximately 15,000 new cases of myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are expected in the United States each year.The mainstay for the management of myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) is supportive therapy with red blood cell (RBC) transfusions to improve the patient's quality of life. RBC transfusions enable adequate tissue oxygenation and increase hemoglobin levels, improve fatigue, and improve the physical and intellectual activity of patients. Up to 90% of patients with MDS will receive RBC transfusions during the course of their disease, and many will become chronically dependent on transfusions to manage their anemia. These transfusions lead to an accumulation of excess iron that, in turn, can develop into a condition known as iron overload, causing clinical consequences like hypertransaminasemia and cirrhosis, dilated cardiomyopathy, and progressive dysfunction of the endocrine glands.Studies in patients with MDS have indicated that iron overload because of RBC transfusions was an independent, adverse prognostic factor for overall survival (OS) and leukemia-free survival (LFS): OS and LFS were significantly shorter in transfusion-dependent patients with MDS than in those who were not transfusion dependent.Although the National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines for the treatment of patients with MDS recommend the use of RBC transfusions as supportive care, they further recommend that the iron burden of transfused patients be monitored regularly and that iron chelation therapy be considered to maintain serum ferritin levels of <1000 ng/mL.