Thrombotic microangiopathy (TMA) is defined as thrombocytopenia and microangiopathic hemolytic anemia. Cancer-associated TMA, a rare but fatal condition, seems an entity distinct from classical thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP)/hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).
Patients and Methods
All patients with breast cancer-associated TMA treated at our institution between 2003 and 2008 were analyzed retrospectively. To elucidate pathophysiological mechanisms, we measured the serum activity of the metalloprotease ADAMTS13.
8 patients were identified. All showed bone marrow infiltration of breast cancer as well as thrombocytopenia, schistocytes, and hemolytic anemia. ADAMTS13 activity was mildly decreased in 4/6 patients (20–108%, normal range 30–120%), but none showed severely low levels as is characteristic of classical TTP. 6 patients were treated with anthracycline-containing fractionated chemotherapy, 5/6 patients experienced partial response. Overall survival was 13 months. Fractionated chemotherapy was well tolerated.
Cancer-associated TMA has an underlying mechanism different from classical TTP. While bone marrow infiltration might be of major relevance, ADAMTS13 deficiency seems to be an epiphenomenon. Fractionated chemotherapy resulted in higher remission rates and comparatively long survival.