Reduction of the clinical severity of sickle cell/beta-thalassemia with hydroxyurea: the experience of a single center in Greece.Blood Cells Mol Dis 2000; 26(5):453-66BC
The use of hydroxyurea for the prevention of sickle cell crises in patients with homozygous HbS disease is now well established. The beneficial effects of this compound stem from (a) selective enrichment of red cells containing an increased amount of fetal hemoglobin, which inhibits HbS polymerization, and (b) a decrease of leukocytes, platelets, and reticulocytes, which significantly limits their adherence to the vascular wall. We report the results of a clinical trial of hydroxyurea on 55 Greek-origin patients with sickle cell/beta-thalassemia and 14 patients with homozygous HbS disease who have been treated with hydroxyurea for several years. Such patients have a higher probability to benefit from hydroxyurea therapy, since in addition to its antisickling effect, the increase of gamma-chain synthesis is expected to diminish the deleterious effects of the unbound alpha-globin chains. Selection of patients and monitoring throughout the whole trial were done by the same clinicians. Quantitative expression of the clinical condition was done using a system scoring several outcome parameters. For a period of 52 months prior to starting treatment, the total score of severity for 59 evaluable patients was 1182 points (3068 patient-weeks), while for the 12,018 patient-weeks of the trial this parameter fell to only 82 points. Other observations of interest include the significant improvement of a group of patients with hepatic cholestasis, the development of leg ulcers possibly related to the treatment, and the dramatic increase of hemoglobin F, often in association with an increase of the total hemoglobin levels as a result of decreased hemolysis.