Background: After erythropoiesis-stimulating agent (ESA) failure, lenalidomide and hypomethylating agents are the only remaining treatment options for most patients with lower-risk myelodysplastic syndromes (LR-MDS). Optimal choice of these agents as front-line therapy in non-del(5q) LR-MDS is unclear. Because azacitidine clinical data mainly describe experience in higher-risk MDS, we performed a meta-analysis of patient-level data to evaluate azacitidine in patients with red blood cell (RBC) transfusion-dependent LR-MDS. Materials and Methods: We searched English-language articles for prospective phase II and III azacitidine clinical trials and patient registries published between 2000 and 2015, and Embase abstracts from 2015 conferences. Patient-level data from identified relevant studies were provided by investigators. Meta-analyses followed Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines. Efficacy endpoints were RBC transfusion independence (TI) and Clinical Benefit (RBC-TI, erythroid response, and complete or partial remission, per International Working Group 2006 criteria for MDS). Results: Data for 233 patients from 6 clinical studies and 1 registry study met criteria for inclusion in analyses. Overall, 90.3% of patients had non-del(5q) LR-MDS. Pooled estimates from random-effects models of RBC-TI and Clinical Benefit were 38.9% and 81.1%, respectively; for the ESA-refractory subgroup, they were 40.5% and 77.3%; and for patients with isolated anemia, they were 41.9% and 82.5%. In multivariate analyses, planned use of ≥6 azacitidine treatment cycles was significantly predictive of response. Conclusion: Azacitidine effects in these patients, most with non-del(5q) LR-MDS, were promising and generally similar to those reported for lenalidomide in similar patients. The choice of initial therapy is important because most patients eventually stop responding to front-line therapy and alternatives are limited. Implications for Practice: Lower-risk myelodysplastic syndromes (LR-MDS) are primarily characterized by anemia. After erythropoiesis-stimulating agent (ESA) failure, lenalidomide and hypomethylating agents are the only remaining treatment options for most patients. This meta-analysis of 233 azacitidine-treated red blood cell (RBC) transfusion-dependent patients with LR-MDS (92.3% non-del[5q]) from 7 studies showed 38.9% became RBC transfusion-independent. There is no clear guidance regarding the optimal choice of lenalidomide or hypomethylating agents for patients with non-del(5q) LR-MDS following ESA failure. Clinical presentation (e.g., number of cytopenias) and potential outcomes after hypomethylating agent failure are factors to consider when making initial treatment decisions for LR-MDS patients.
- Lower-risk myelodysplastic syndromes