Background: Allogeneic stem-cell transplantation (HSCT) is the only curative treatment in myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). Azacitidine (AZA) is increasingly used prior to HSCT, however in Europe it is only approved for patients who are not eligible for HSCT.
Patients and methods: We conducted a phase II multicenter study to prospectively evaluate the feasibility of HSCT after treatment with AZA in 70 patients with a myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), 19 with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), and 8 with chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML). After a median of four cycles (range 1-11): 24% of patients achieved complete remission, 14% partial remission, 8% hematologic improvement, 32% had stable and 22% progressive disease. Ten patients discontinued treatment before the planned four cycles, due to an adverse event in nine cases.
Results: A HSC donor was identified in 73 patients, and HSCT was performed in 54 patients (74% of patients with a donor). Main reasons for turning down HSCT were lack of a donor, an adverse event, or progressive disease (9, 12, and 16 patients, respectively). At a median follow-up of 20.5 months from enrolment, response to AZA was the only independent prognostic factor for survival. Compared to baseline assessment, AZA treatment did not affect patients' comorbidities at HSCT: the HCT-CI remained stable in 62% patients, and worsened or improved in 23% and 15% of patients, respectively.
Conclusions: Our study shows that HSCT is feasible in the majority of patients with HR-MDS/AML/CMML-2 after AZA treatment. As matched unrelated donor was the most frequent source of donor cells, the time between diagnosis and HSCT needed for donor search could be 'bridged' using azacitidine. These data show that AZA prior to HSCT could be a better option than intensive chemotherapy in higher-risk MDS. The trial has been registered with the EudraCT number 2010-019673-1.
Keywords: allogeneic stem-cell transplantation; azacitidine; high-risk MDS; hypomethylating treatment.
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