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1.  Efficacy of azacitidine compared with that of conventional care regimens in the treatment of higher-risk myelodysplastic syndromes: a randomised, open-label, phase III study 
The lancet oncology  2009;10(3):223-232.
Drug treatments for patients with high-risk myelodysplastic syndromes provide no survival advantage. In this trial, we aimed to assess the effect of azacitidine on overall survival compared with the three commonest conventional care regimens.
In a phase III, international, multicentre, controlled, parallel-group, open-label trial, patients with higher-risk myelodysplastic syndromes were randomly assigned one-to-one to receive azacitidine (75 mg/m² per day for 7 days every 28 days) or conventional care (best supportive care, low-dose cytarabine, or intensive chemotherapy as selected by investigators before randomisation). Patients were stratified by French–American–British and international prognostic scoring system classifications; randomisation was done with a block size of four. The primary endpoint was overall survival. Efficacy analyses were by intention to treat for all patients assigned to receive treatment. This study is registered with, number NCT00071799.
Between Feb 13, 2004, and Aug 7, 2006, 358 patients were randomly assigned to receive azacitidine (n=179) or conventional care regimens (n=179). Four patients in the azacitidine and 14 in the conventional care groups received no study drugs but were included in the intention-to-treat efficacy analysis. After a median follow-up of 21·1 months (IQR 15·1–26·9), median overall survival was 24·5 months (9·9–not reached) for the azacitidine group versus 15·0 months (5·6–24·1) for the conventional care group (hazard ratio 0·58; 95% CI 0·43–0·77; stratified log-rank p=0·0001). At last follow-up, 82 patients in the azacitidine group had died compared with 113 in the conventional care group. At 2 years, on the basis of Kaplan-Meier estimates, 50·8% (95% CI 42·1–58·8) of patients in the azacitidine group were alive compared with 26·2% (18·7–34·3) in the conventional care group (p<0·0001). Peripheral cytopenias were the most common grade 3–4 adverse events for all treatments.
Treatment with azacitidine increases overall survival in patients with higher-risk myelodysplastic syndromes relative to conventional care.
PMCID: PMC4086808  PMID: 19230772
2.  Continued Azacitidine Therapy Beyond Time of First Response Improves Quality of Response in Patients With Higher-Risk Myelodysplastic Syndromes 
Cancer  2011;117(12):2697-2702.
In the AZA-001 trial, azacitidine (75 mg/m2/d subcutaneously for Days 1–7 of every 28-day cycle) demonstrated improved survival compared with conventional care regimens in patients with International Prognostic Scoring System-defined intermediate-2- or high-risk myelodysplastic syndrome and World Health Organizationdefined acute myeloid leukemia with 20% to 30% bone marrow blasts.
This secondary analysis of the AZA-001 phase 3 study evaluated the time to first response and the potential benefit of continued azacitidine treatment beyond first response in responders.
Overall, 91 of 179 patients achieved a response to azacitidine; responding patients received a median of 14 treatment cycles (range, 2–30). Median time to first response was 2 cycles (range, 1–16). Although 91% of first responses occurred by 6 cycles, continued azacitidine improved response category in 48% of patients. Best response was achieved by 92% of responders by 12 cycles. Median time from first response to best response was 3.5 cycles (95% confidence interval [CI], 3.0–6.0) in 30 patients who ultimately achieved a complete response, and 3.0 cycles (95% CI, 1.0–3.0) in 21 patients who achieved a partial response.
Continued azacitidine therapy in responders was associated with a quantitative increase in response to a higher response category in 48% of patients, and therefore may enhance clinical benefit in patients with higher-risk MDS.
PMCID: PMC4000012  PMID: 21656747
azacitidine; myelodysplastic syndrome; quality of response; higher-risk disease; treatment duration
3.  Management and supportive care measures for adverse events in patients with myelodysplastic syndromes treated with azacitidine* 
European journal of haematology  2010;85(2):130-138.
Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) treatment can initially worsen patients’ clinical condition and they may discontinue therapy before achieving benefit. We present previously unpublished data from two large phase III trials describing common adverse events (AEs) associated with azacitidine and methods to manage them.
In the Cancer and Leukemia Group B (CALGB) 9221 study, patients with any French-American-British (FAB) subtype of MDS were randomized to azacitidine or best supportive care (BSC). After 56 d, patients randomized to BSC with disease progression could cross over to receive azacitidine. In the AZA-001 study, patients with higher-risk MDS (FAB-defined refractory anemia with excess blasts (RAEB), RAEB in transformation, or chronic myelomonocitic leukaemia and IPSS int-2 or high) were randomized to azacitidine or to conventional care regimens (CCR), which included low-dose ara-C, BSC, or intensive chemotherapy. In both studies, azacitidine dose was 75 mg/m2/d SC for 7 d every 28 d. AEs were graded per National Cancer Institute’s Common Toxicity Criteria version 2.0 (AZA-001) or CALGB Expanded CTC (CALGB 9221).
In safety-evaluable patients in AZA-001 (N = 175) or CALGB 9221 (N = 150), the most common AEs with azacitidine included hematologic (eg, cytopenias) and non-hematologic administration-related events (eg, injection-site reactions and gastrointestinal disorders). Most AEs were transient and resolved during ongoing therapy (> 83%). Hematologic AEs, most frequently observed during early treatment cycles, decreased during subsequent cycles and were usually managed with dosing delays (23–29%). Gastrointestinal symptoms were primarily managed with anti-emetics and laxatives.
Hematologic and non-hematologic AEs with azacitidine decreased in frequency as treatment continued. Awareness of the onset, duration and management of AEs can facilitate treatment, permitting patients to continue therapy for maximum benefit.
PMCID: PMC4000014  PMID: 20394651
azacitidine; safety; disease management; myelodysplastic syndromes; adverse drug event
4.  Prolonged survival with improved tolerability in higher-risk myelodysplastic syndromes: azacitidine compared with low dose ara-C 
British journal of haematology  2010;149(2):244-249.
In the phase III AZA-001 trial, low-dose cytarabine (LDara-C), the most widely used low-dose chemotherapy in patients with higher-risk myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) who are ineligible for intensive treatment, was found to be associated with poorer survival compared with azacitidine. This analysis further compared the efficacy and the toxicity of these two drug regimens. Before randomization, investigators preselected patients to receive a conventional care regimen, one of which was LDara-C. Of 94 patients preselected to LDara-C, 45 were randomized to azacitidine and 49 to LDara-C. Azacitidine patients had significantly more and longer haematologicalal responses and increased red blood cell transfusion independence. Azacitidine prolonged overall survival versus LDara-C in patients with poor cytogenetic risk, presence of −7/del(7q), and French-American-British subtypes refractory anaemia with excess blasts (RAEB) and RAEB in transformation. When analyzed per patient year of drug exposure, azacitidine treatment was associated with fewer grade 3–4 cytopenias and shorter hospitalisation time than LDara-C in these higher-risk MDS patients.
PMCID: PMC4000023  PMID: 20136825
azacitidine; higher-risk myelodysplastic syndromes; low-dose cytarabine (ara-C); myelodysplastic syndromes; survival
5.  Effects of azacitidine compared with conventional care regimens in elderly (≥75 years) patients with higher-risk myelodysplastic syndromes☆ 
This analysis compared azacitidine (AZA) to conventional care regimens (CCR) and their associated overall survival (OS) and tolerability in the subset of 87 elderly (≥75 years) patients with higher-risk MDS (FAB: RAEB, RAEB-t, CMML and IPSS: Int-2 or High) from the AZA-001 trial. Patients were randomized to AZA (75 mg/m2/day subcutaneously×7 days every 28 days) (n = 38) or CCR (n = 49) and had median ages of 78 and 77 years, respectively. AZA significantly improved OS vs CCR (HR: 0.48 [95%CI: 0.26, 0.89]; p = 0.0193) and 2-year OS rates were 55% vs 15% (p < 0.001), respectively. AZA was generally well tolerated compared with CCR, which was primarily best supportive care (67%). Grade 3–4 anemia, neutropenia, and thrombocytopenia with AZA vs CCR were 13% vs 4%, 61% vs 17%, and 50% vs 30%, respectively. Given this efficacy and tolerability, AZA should be considered the treatment of choice in patients aged ≥75 years with good performance status and higher-risk MDS.
PMCID: PMC4000027  PMID: 20451404
Azacitidine; Low-dose ara-C; Elderly; Myelodysplastic syndromes; MDS; Acute myeloid leukemia; AML; Survival
6.  Azacytidine (Vidaza®) in the treatment of myelodysplastic syndromes 
The myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are a heterogeneous group of disorders that manifest as bone marrow failure with the risk of life threatening infections and bleeding. A third of these patients may transform to acute leukemia. Age and co-morbidities have limited treatment in the majority to supportive care with a minority of patients eligible for the only curative modality to date, allogeneic stem cell transplantation. The advent of targeted therapy has increased the repertoire of therapeutic options. In particular the methyl transferase inhibitor 5 Azacytidine, that targets epigenetic changes in MDS, has been shown to be effective in up to 60% of patients in a Phase III randomized controlled trial comparing it with best supportive care and has been licensed by the US Food and Drug Administration for use in all subtypes of MDS. It has been shown to prolong time to leukemic transformation (21 vs 12 months with 3% transforming to leukemia p=0.0001) and is the only disease-modifying drug. Patients with monosomy 7, trisomy 8, and diploid chromosomes appear to particularly benefit with the former deriving sustained remissions. As an outpatient therapy, with an acceptable side effect profile, treatment with Azacytidine needs to be considered in all MDS patients who are eligible for treatment.
PMCID: PMC1936359  PMID: 18360650
azacytidine; myelodysplastic syndromes; demethylation; methyltransferase inhibitor
7.  Lenalidomide as a disease-modifying agent in patients with del(5q) myelodysplastic syndromes: linking mechanism of action to clinical outcomes 
Annals of Hematology  2013;93:1-11.
Deletion of the long arm of chromosome 5, del(5q), is the most prevalent cytogenetic abnormality in patients with myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). In isolation, it is traditionally associated with favorable prognosis compared with other subtypes of MDS. However, owing to the inherent heterogeneity of the disease, prognosis for patients with del(5q) MDS is highly variable depending on the presence of factors such as additional chromosomal abnormalities, >5 % blasts in the bone marrow (BM), or transfusion dependence. Over recent years, the immunomodulatory drug lenalidomide has demonstrated remarkable efficacy in patients with del(5q) MDS. Advances in the understanding of the pathogenesis of the disease have suggested that lenalidomide targets aberrant signaling pathways caused by haplosufficiency of specific genes in a commonly deleted region on chromosome 5 (e.g., SPARC, RPS14, Cdc25C, and PP2A). As a result, the agent specifically targets del(5q) clones while also promoting erythropoiesis and repopulation of the bone marrow in normal cells. This review discusses recent developments in the understanding of the mechanism of action of lenalidomide, and how this underlies favorable outcomes in patients with del(5q) MDS. In addition, we discuss how improved understanding of the mechanism of disease will facilitate clinicians’ ability to predict/monitor response and identify patients at risk of relapse.
PMCID: PMC3889654  PMID: 24018623
Erythropoiesis; Immunomodulatory; Lenalidomide; Myelodysplastic syndromes
8.  Topography, Clinical, and Genomic Correlates of 5q Myeloid Malignancies Revisited 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2012;30(12):1343-1349.
Interstitial deletions of chromosome 5q are common in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), pointing toward the pathogenic role of this region in disease phenotype and clonal evolution. The higher level of resolution of single-nucleotide polymorphism array (SNP-A) karyotyping may be used to find cryptic abnormalities and to precisely define the topographic features of the genomic lesions, allowing for more accurate clinical correlations.
Patients and Methods
We analyzed high-density SNP-A karyotyping at diagnosis for a cohort of 1,155 clinically well-annotated patients with malignant myeloid disorders.
We identified chromosome 5q deletions in 142 (12%) of 1,155 patients and uniparental disomy segments (UPD) in four (0.35%) of 1,155 patients. Patients with deletions involving the centromeric and telomeric extremes of 5q have a more aggressive disease phenotype and additional chromosomal lesions. Lesions not involving the centromeric or telomeric extremes of 5q are not exclusive to 5q− syndrome but can be associated with other less aggressive forms of MDS. In addition, larger 5q deletions are associated with either del(17p) or UPD17p. In 31 of 33 patients with del(5q) AML, either a deletion involving the centromeric and/or telomeric regions or heterozygous mutations in NPM1 or MAML1 located in 5q35 were present.
Our results suggest that the extent of the affected region on 5q determines clinical characteristics that can be further modified by heterozygous mutations present in the telomeric extreme.
PMCID: PMC3341146  PMID: 22370328
9.  Cooperativity of imprinted genes inactivated by acquired chromosome 20q deletions 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2013;123(5):2169-2182.
Large regions of recurrent genomic loss are common in cancers; however, with a few well-characterized exceptions, how they contribute to tumor pathogenesis remains largely obscure. Here we identified primate-restricted imprinting of a gene cluster on chromosome 20 in the region commonly deleted in chronic myeloid malignancies. We showed that a single heterozygous 20q deletion consistently resulted in the complete loss of expression of the imprinted genes L3MBTL1 and SGK2, indicative of a pathogenetic role for loss of the active paternally inherited locus. Concomitant loss of both L3MBTL1 and SGK2 dysregulated erythropoiesis and megakaryopoiesis, 2 lineages commonly affected in chronic myeloid malignancies, with distinct consequences in each lineage. We demonstrated that L3MBTL1 and SGK2 collaborated in the transcriptional regulation of MYC by influencing different aspects of chromatin structure. L3MBTL1 is known to regulate nucleosomal compaction, and we here showed that SGK2 inactivated BRG1, a key ATP-dependent helicase within the SWI/SNF complex that regulates nucleosomal positioning. These results demonstrate a link between an imprinted gene cluster and malignancy, reveal a new pathogenetic mechanism associated with acquired regions of genomic loss, and underline the complex molecular and cellular consequences of “simple” cancer-associated chromosome deletions.
PMCID: PMC3635733  PMID: 23543057
10.  Proteomic and protein interaction network analysis of human T lymphocytes during cell-cycle entry 
Proteomic analysis of T cells emerging from quiescence identifies dynamic network-level changes in key cellular processes. Disruption of two such processes, ribosome biogenesis and RNA splicing, reveals that the programs controlling cell growth and cell-cycle entry are separable.
The authors conduct a proteomic and protein interaction network analysis of human T lymphocytes during entry into the first cell cycle.Inhibiting the induction of eIF6 (60S ribosome biogenesis) causes T cells to enter the cell cycle without growing in size.Inhibiting the induction of SF3B2/SF3B4 (U2/U12-dependent RNA splicing) allows an increase in cell size without entering the cell cycle.These results provide proof of principle that blastogenesis and proliferation programs are separable in primary human T cells.
Regulating the transition of cells such as T lymphocytes from quiescence (G0) into an activated, proliferating state involves initiation of cellular programs resulting in entry into the cell cycle (proliferation), the growth cycle (blastogenesis, cell size) and effector (functional) activation. We show the first proteomic analysis of protein interaction networks activated during entry into the first cell cycle from G0. We also provide proof of principle that blastogenesis and proliferation programs are separable in primary human T cells. We employed a proteomic profiling method to identify large-scale changes in chromatin/nuclear matrix-bound and unbound proteins in human T lymphocytes during the transition from G0 into the first cell cycle and mapped them to form functionally annotated, dynamic protein interaction networks. Inhibiting the induction of two proteins involved in two of the most significantly upregulated cellular processes, ribosome biogenesis (eIF6) and hnRNA splicing (SF3B2/SF3B4), showed, respectively, that human T cells can enter the cell cycle without growing in size, or increase in size without entering the cell cycle.
PMCID: PMC3321526  PMID: 22415777
cell cycle; cell size; mass spectrometry; proteomics; T cells
11.  A functional assay for microRNA target identification and validation 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;40(10):e75.
MicroRNAs (miRNA) are a class of small RNA molecules that regulate numerous critical cellular processes and bind to partially complementary sequences resulting in down-regulation of their target genes. Due to the incomplete homology of the miRNA to its target site identification of miRNA target genes is difficult and currently based on computational algorithms predicting large numbers of potential targets for a given miRNA. To enable the identification of biologically relevant miRNA targets, we describe a novel functional assay based on a 3′-UTR-enriched library and a positive/negative selection strategy. As proof of principle we have used mir-130a and its validated target MAFB to test this strategy. Identification of MAFB and five additional targets and their subsequent confirmation as mir-130a targets by western blot analysis and knockdown experiments validates this strategy for the functional identification of miRNA targets.
PMCID: PMC3378903  PMID: 22323518
12.  Practical recommendations on the use of lenalidomide in the management of myelodysplastic syndromes 
Annals of Hematology  2008;87(5):345-352.
Lenalidomide, an oral immunomodulatory agent, has received approval in the USA from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the management of myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) classified by the International Prognostic Scoring System (IPSS) as low risk or intermediate-1 risk and with a deletion 5q (del(5q)) cytogenetic abnormality. Although some patients with del(5q) have a relatively good prognosis, all del(5q) patients will become transfusion-dependent at some point during the course of their disease. The results of two clinical trials in more than 160 patients with MDS have demonstrated clear therapeutic benefits of lenalidomide, with >60% of patients achieving independence from transfusion during therapy, irrespective of age, prior therapy, sex, or disease-risk assessment. The recommendations presented in this review will aid the safe administration of lenalidomide for the treatment of patients with low-risk or intermediate-1-risk MDS and a del(5q) cytogenetic abnormality, and they will help physicians avoid unnecessary dose reduction or interruption, thus assuring the best efficacy for patients.
PMCID: PMC2275303  PMID: 18265982
Myelodysplastic syndromes; MDS; Lenalidomide; Treatment guidelines
13.  Hydroxyurea Treatment of Meningiomas: A Pilot Study 
Skull Base  2006;16(3):157-160.
Objectives: To present a pilot study of hydroxyurea chemotherapy in the management of surgically difficult meningiomas. Design: Prospective case series. Setting: Tertiary referral center. Participants: Six patients were enrolled: five had symptomatic recurrent or residual WHO Grade I meningiomas and one had an unoperated anterior clinoidal meningioma. Main outcome measures: MRI volumetry before and after treatment, hematological state, progression to surgery. Results: Hydroxyurea was administered for 1 year, starting at a dose of 15 mg/kg/day. No tumors reduced in size on treatment and one continued to grow rapidly. Three remained stable. Full volumetry was unavailable on two patients. One patient was withdrawn from the study because of myelosuppression and underwent further surgery. Three experienced significant drug-related side effects. Two patients underwent further surgery. Conclusions: From this small pilot study we conclude that although hydroxyurea may be associated with disease stabilization in some patients, it did not reduce tumor mass and it caused significant side effects in some of our subjects.
PMCID: PMC1586172  PMID: 17268588
Hydroxyurea; chemotherapy; meningioma
14.  Commitment Point during G0→G1 That Controls Entry into the Cell Cycle 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2003;23(7):2351-2361.
Initiation of T-lymphocyte-mediated immune responses involves two cellular processes: entry into the cell cycle (G0→G1) for clonal proliferation and coordinated changes in surface and secreted molecules that mediate effector functions. However, a point during G0→G1 beyond which T cells are committed to enter the cell cycle has not been defined. We define here a G0→G1 commitment point that occurs 3 to 5 h after CD3 and CD28 stimulation of human CD4 or CD8 T cells. Transition through this point requires cdk6/4-cyclin D, since inhibition with TAT-p16INK4A during the first 3 to 5 h prevents cell cycle entry and maintains both naive and memory T cells in G0. Transition through the G0→G1 commitment point is also necessary for T cells to increase in size, i.e., to enter the cellular growth cycle. However, transition through this point is not required for the induction of effector functions. These can be initiated while cells are maintained in G0 with TAT-p16INK4A. We have termed this quiescent, activated state G0(A). Our data provide proof of the principle that entry of T cells into the cell cycle and cellular growth cycles are coupled at the G0→G1 commitment point but that these processes can be uncoupled from the early expression of molecules of effector functions.
PMCID: PMC150729  PMID: 12640120
16.  Valuation of transfusion-free living in MDS: results of health utility interviews with patients 
This study measured how myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) patients value transfusion independence (TI), reduced transfusions (RT) and transfusion-dependence (TD) using health utility assessment methodology.
47 MDS patients were interviewed, US (n = 8), France (n = 9), Germany (n = 9) and the UK (n = 21), to elicit the utility value of TI, RT and TD. Health states were developed based on literature; patient forum discussions; and were validated by a hematologist. Face-to-face interviews used the feeling thermometer Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) and the Time Trade-Off (TTO) method to value the health states on a 0 (dead) to 1 (perfect health) scale. Socio-demographic, clinical, and quality-of-life (EQ-5D) characteristics were surveyed to describe the patient sample.
Results and Discussion
The mean age was 67 years (range: 29-83); 45% male, 70% retired; 40% had secondary/high school education, or higher (32%), and 79% lived with family, a partner or spouse, or friends. The mean time from MDS diagnosis was 5 years (range:1-23). Most patients (87%) received previous transfusions and 49% had received a transfusion in the last 3 months. Mean EQ-5D index score was 0.78; patients reported at least some problem with mobility (45%), usual activities (40%), pain/discomfort (47%), and anxiety/depression (34%). Few patients had difficulty understanding the VAS (n = 3) and TTO (n = 4) exercises. Utility scores for TI were higher than for RT (0.84 vs. 0.77; p < 0.001) or TD (0.84 vs. 0.60; p < 0.001). Three patients rated TD worse than dead. Corresponding VAS scale scores were 78 vs. 56; (p < 0.001), and 78 vs. 31 (p < 0.001), respectively.
Patients value TI, suggesting an important role for new treatments aiming to achieve greater TI in MDS. These results can be used in preference-based health economic evaluation of new MDS treatments, such as in future cost-utility studies.
PMCID: PMC2746210  PMID: 19737399

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