Top 10 Innovations for 2010
#8 Oral Thrombopoeitin (TPO) Receptor Agonist That Stimulates Platelet Production
Adults suffering from a serious blood disorder that destroys blood platelets and prevents proper clotting now have the option of a new medication that may dramatically improve their health.
In a severe case of sleep apnea, a person may be briefly awakened hundreds of times every night due to oxygen deprivation, leading to poor sleep and extreme fatigue during the day.
An estimated 50,000 to 100,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with chronic immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP). Also known as idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, ITP is an autoimmune disorder that causes the body to mount an attack against the body's blood platelets, the cells that help blood to clot. Mistakenly deemed foreign by the immune system, they are then eliminated in the spleen, or sometimes by the liver, resulting in a lower number of platelets than normal.
The result: Low blood platelet count (thrombocytopenia) that may produce bruising or excessive bleeding. Severe fatigue and complications during surgery and pregnancy are definite possibilities. Although rare, the decreased number of platelets can also trigger a spontaneous cerebral hemorrhage.
No one really knows what causes ITP. While most cases of ITP can be controlled, the response to medication is often variable, typically disappointing, and associated with risk. More drastic measures, like surgical removal of the spleen (splenectomy) are sometimes taken in order to prevent the body from destroying platelet cells within the organ. However, with the spleen gone and no longer filtering the blood stream, a patient is now at higher risk for infection.
The medical and ITP community welcomed the promising results of an international Phase III clinical trial that were the basis of the recent approval of the first oral thrombopoietin (TPO) receptor agonist to treat adults with ITP. The new drug works by stimulating the production of cells in bone marrow that form platelet cells in the blood.
By the end of the 43-day testing period, 59% of subjects receiving the study drug achieved platelet counts at or over 50,000 per microliter of circulating blood, compared with 16% of subjects in the placebo group.
A safe-level platelet count is between 30,000 and 50,000 per microliter of blood. In addition, those test subjects taking the new drug were almost 10 times more likely to reach the target platelet counts as the placebo group.
"It's important that we now have a promising new drug that can help patients with ITP manage their symptoms," says Roy Silverstein, MD, Chair, Department of Cell Biology, Cleveland Clinic. "Increasing the production of platelets with this drug may play an important role in managing this disorder."
Ongoing and future studies will evaluate the safety and efficacy of the drug not only as a long-term treatment for ITP, but as a possible treatment for the 4 million Americans with hepatitis-C-related thrombocytopenia and for patients receiving chemotherapy for leukemia.