Eltrombopag Plus Pulsed Dexamethasone As First Line Therapy for Subjects with Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP)

Lunqing Zhang, Mingjie Zhang, Xin Du, Yunfeng Cheng and Gregory Cheng


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Background: Eltrombopag is an oral thrombopoietin receptor agonist that has been licensed for use as second line therapy in ITP patients. For most subjects, platelet counts usually return to baseline within 2 weeks of eltrombopag discontinuation, however, up to 15% of subjects may maintain a prolonged response after discontinuation (BJH Volume 165(6) 2014 865-869). Therefore, we conducted a pilot study to evaluate whether a 12-week course of eltrombopag plus pulsed dexamethasone as first line therapy can increase the proportion of patients with prolonged response.

Methods: This multicenter, single arm, open-label pilot study was performed on subjects with newly diagnosed ITP. Eligible subjects had confirmed ITP and platelet counts <30×109/L or platelet counts < 50×109/L and significant bleeding symptoms (WHO bleeding scale 2 or above). Patients must have no prior ITP treatment except platelet transfusions. All patients provided written informed consent before enrolment. This study was conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki.

Eligibility criteria included isolated thrombocytopenia with exclusions of secondary immune or drug-induced thrombocytopenia, cancer and pregnancy related thrombocytopenia and virus induced thrombocytopenia. Bone marrow examination is not mandatory but must be consistent with peripheral platelet consumptions with no features of dysplasia, extensive fibrosis, aplasia, marrow infiltration if performed.

Treatment consisted of eltrombopag 25-75mg daily according to platelet response for 12 weeks plus pulsed dexamethasone, 40mg daily for 4 consecutive days every 4 weeks for 1-3 courses. The primary endpoint was prolonged response defined as platelet counts > 50×109/L for more than 6 months without any ITP therapy after completion of 12-week therapy.

The reported prolonged response rate of dexamethasone alone is around 25%, a sample size of 60 subjects will be required to detect a doubling of the prolonged response rate at a significant level of 0.05 with power of 0.9. Differences between prolonged responder and relapsed subject groups were analyzed by the Student's t-test. P values <0.05 were considered significant.

Results:46 subjects were enrolled from February 2015 to July 2018. The median age was 40 years, range 18 to 81; 29 were female and 17 were male. Median platelet counts at baseline were 18×109/L, range 1 to 44×109/L. One subject withdrew consent before starting treatment. One was withdrawn because of protocol violations. Three subjects did not have significant increase in platelet counts during the entire 12 weeks treatment despite a maximum of eltrombopag 75mg daily and 3 courses of pulsed dexamethasone. One of them subsequently turned out to be amegakaryocytic thrombocytopenia. These 5 subjects were still included in the final analysis.

Twenty-nine subjects had good initial response to treatment and completed at least 6 months follow-up (Fig 1), 19 of them had achieved the primary end point of platelet counts count> 50×109/L for more than 6 months after discontinuation of eltrombopag. The median platelet counts at 6 months were 150×109/L (range 53 to 371×109/L), Average eltrombopag dose was 36.8mg daily and average pulsed dexamethasone was 2.2 courses. Eleven subjects maintained prolonged response for 12 months or more.

Four subjects are still receiving treatment and 8 subjects are still on the 6 months off-therapy observation period (median follow up is 12 weeks, range 4 to 21 weeks).

Ten subjects relapsed after discontinuation of eltrombopag(Table 1). The median time to relapse was 47.8 days, range 15 to 148 days. Average daily eltrombopag was 45mg and average pulsed dexamethasone was 2.5 courses.

So far, the prolonged response rate of 56 % (19/34) among 34 evaluable subjects is very encouraging. According to statistical analysis, seven more prolonged responders among the remaining 26 subjects (14 yet enrolled and 12 pending final evaluation) would suggest that 12-week of eltrombopag plus pulsed dexamethasone as first line therapy may significantly improve prolonged response rate in ITP patients. All subjects tolerated the treatment well and no Grade 3 or above adverse effects were reported.

Conclusions: Eltrombopag plus pulsed dexamethasone is an effective and safe treatment for ITP as a first line therapy that can provide sustained prolonged response in adults. This therapy could be a new treatment option for ITP subjects.

Disclosures Cheng: Novartis: Research Funding; BMS: Honoraria, Speakers Bureau; Astrazeneca: Honoraria, Speakers Bureau.

  • * Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.

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