Alpha-thalassaemia and response to hydroxyurea in sickle cell anaemia

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Background: Hydroxyurea (HU) reduces vaso-occlusive crises (VOC) and other complications of sickle cell anaemia (SCA). Alpha-thalassaemia is a known modifier of SCA. Studies on the efficacy of HU in SCA patients with α-thalassaemia have yielded varying results. Objective: To determine the effect of α-thalassaemia in response to HU therapy in the Multicenter Study of Hydroxyurea (MSH) cohort. Methods: We compared the laboratory parameters and VOC incidence in the MSH cohort stratified by the presence or the absence of α-thalassaemia. Results: Hydroxyurea showed significant (P = 0.001 for all baseline vs. follow-up comparisons) treatment effect on red cell indices irrespective of α-globin gene deletion. The magnitude of the HU-related changes was similar for mean corpuscular volume (MCV) (no α-thalassaemia 13 fl and α-thalassaemia 13 fl) and mean corpuscular haemoglobin (MCH) (no α-thalassaemia 4 pg and α-thalassaemia 4 pg) in both groups. Foetal haemoglobin (HbF) and F-cells also increased significantly with HU treatment in both groups. Total haemoglobin increased after HU treatment in both groups, but the increase was smaller and not statistically significant in patients with α-thalassaemia. In contrast, HU-related reduction in VOCs was more pronounced in patients with α-thalassaemia (VOC incidence rate ratio HU/placebo: 0.63 for α-thalassaemia and 0.54 for no α-thalassaemia (P for interaction 0.003). Conclusion: Hydroxyurea decreases VOCs in SCA patients with and without α-thalassaemia, and the degree of VOC reduction was more pronounced in the patients with alpha-thalassaemia. Despite the lower baseline values, changes in standard laboratory parameters such as MCV and HbF percent remain useful in monitoring HU therapy in the presence of α-thalassaemia. © 2013 John Wiley & Sons A/S.

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