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Steven D. Gore

The clinical activity of the DNA methyltransferase inhibitors 5-azacitidine and 2′-deoxy-5-azacytidine in myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) suggests that epigenetic modulation of gene transcription may play an important pathogenetic role in the development and expression of these diseases. Approximately 50% of patients treated with these compounds experience hematologic improvement, making these the most active single agents for unselected patients with MDS. Responses include complete and partial hematologic responses. Two randomized trials have shown that the use of these drugs significantly alters the natural history of MDS compared with supportive care. Histone deacetylase inhibitors, which may also impact the expression of genes through epigenetic mechanisms, seem to have measurable activity in MDS in preliminary studies. Histone deacetylase inhibitors are most likely used in combination with other agents, including DNA methyltransferase inhibitors. Despite the clinical activity of these classes of drugs, there is no conclusive evidence that their clinical activity is attributable to their impact on the epigenome. Such information will be critical in the development of more effective congeners and drug combinations in ongoing attempts to improve the outcome of patients with MDS.

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Thomas Prebet and Steven D. Gore

Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) represents a remarkable disease in which leukemogenesis is driven by the PML-RARα oncogene and for which targeted treatment with all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA)–based therapy allows substantial chance of cure. APL is seen in a small subset of older patients, with age representing one of the most important prognostic factors for outcome of treatment. Unlike other acute leukemias, the inferior outcomes for APL in older patients relates less to changes in disease biology and more to the increased toxicity of ATRA and the chemotherapy combination regimens used to induce hematologic and molecular responses. Risk-adapted strategies that use less-toxic agents, such as arsenic trioxide, allow treatment of older patients, with greater efficiency and better chances of cure.

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Peter L. Greenberg, Cynthia K. Rigsby, Richard M. Stone, H. Joachim Deeg, Steven D. Gore, Michael M. Millenson, Stephen D. Nimer, Margaret R. O'Donnell, Paul J. Shami and Rashmi Kumar

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) convened a multidisciplinary task force to critically review the evidence for iron chelation and the rationale for treatment of transfusional iron overload in patients with myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). The task force was charged with addressing issues related to tissue iron toxicity; the role of MRI in assessing iron overload; the rationale and role of treating transfusional iron overload in patients with MDS; and the impact of iron overload on bone marrow transplantation. This report summarizes the background data and ensuing discussion from the NCCN Task Force meeting on transfusional iron overload in MDS.

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Nikolai A. Podoltsev, Mengxin Zhu, Amer M. Zeidan, Rong Wang, Xiaoyi Wang, Amy J. Davidoff, Scott F. Huntington, Smith Giri, Steven D. Gore and Xiaomei Ma

ABSTRACT

Background: Current guidelines recommend hydroxyurea (HU) as frontline therapy for patients with high-risk essential thrombocythemia (ET) to prevent thrombosis. However, little is known about the impact of HU on thrombosis or survival among these patients in the real-world setting. Patients and Methods: A retrospective cohort study was conducted of older adults (aged ≥66 years) diagnosed with ET from 2007 through 2013 using the linked SEER-Medicare database. Multivariable Cox proportional hazards regression models were used to assess the effect of HU on overall survival, and multivariable competing risk models were used to assess the effect of HU on the occurrence of thrombotic events. Results: Of 1,010 patients, 745 (73.8%) received HU. Treatment with HU was associated with a significantly lower risk of death (hazard ratio [HR], 0.52; 95% CI, 0.43–0.64; P<.01). Every 10% increase in HU proportion of days covered was associated with a 12% decreased risk of death (HR, 0.88; 95% CI, 0.86–0.91; P<.01). Compared with nonusers, HU users also had a significantly lower risk of thrombotic events (HR, 0.51; 95% CI, 0.41–0.64; P<.01). Conclusions: Although underused in our study population, HU was associated with a reduced incidence of thrombotic events and improved overall survival in older patients with ET.

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Scott F. Huntington, Jessica R. Hoag, Rong Wang, Amer M. Zeidan, Smith Giri, Steven D. Gore, Xiaomei Ma, Cary P. Gross and Amy J. Davidoff

Background: Provider experience, or clinical volume, is associated with improved outcomes in many complex healthcare settings. Despite increased complexity of anticancer therapies, studies evaluating physician-level experience and cancer treatment outcomes are lacking. Methods: A population-based study was conducted of older adults (aged ≥66 years) diagnosed with B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2004 through 2011 using SEER-Medicare data. Analysis focused on outcomes in patients receiving rituximab, the first approved monoclonal anticancer immunotherapy. We hypothesized that lower physician experience using rituximab and managing its infusion-related reactions would be associated with early treatment discontinuation. A 12-month look-back from each initiation of rituximab was used to categorize physician volume (0, 1–2, or ≥3 initiations per year). Modified Poisson regression was used to account for provider-level correlation and estimated relative risk (RR) of early rituximab discontinuation (<3 cycles within 180 days of rituximab initiation). Cox proportional hazards were used to measure the impact of rituximab discontinuation on survival. Results: Among 15,110 patients who initiated rituximab with 2,684 physicians, 7.6% experienced early rituximab discontinuation. Approximately one-fourth of patients (26.1%) initiated rituximab with a physician who had no rituximab initiations during the preceding 12 months. Compared with patients treated by physicians who had ≥3 rituximab initiations in the prior year, those treated by physicians without initiations were 57% more likely to experience early discontinuation (adjusted RR [aRR], 1.57; 95% CI, 1.35–1.82; P<.001 for 0 vs ≥3, and aRR, 1.19; 95% CI, 1.03–1.37; P=.02 for 1–2 vs ≥3). Additionally, rituximab discontinuation was associated with higher risk of death (adjusted hazard ratio, 1.39; 95% CI, 1.28–1.52; P<.001). Conclusions: Lower oncologist experience with rituximab was associated with increased risk of early rituximab discontinuation in Medicare beneficiaries with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Physician-level volume may be an important factor in providing high-quality cancer care in the modern era.

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Peter L. Greenberg, Eyal Attar, John M. Bennett, Clara D. Bloomfield, Carlos M. De Castro, H. Joachim Deeg, James M. Foran, Karin Gaensler, Guillermo Garcia-Manero, Steven D. Gore, David Head, Rami Komrokji, Lori J. Maness, Michael Millenson, Stephen D. Nimer, Margaret R. O'Donnell, Mark A. Schroeder, Paul J. Shami, Richard M. Stone, James E. Thompson and Peter Westervelt

Overview The myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) represent myeloid clonal hemopathies with relatively heterogeneous spectrums of presentation. The major clinical problems in these disorders are morbidities caused by cytopenias and the potential for MDS to evolve into acute myeloid leukemia (AML). In the general population, MDS occur in 5 per 100,000 people. However, among individuals older than 70 years, the incidence increases to between 22 and 45 per 100,000 and increases further with age. Managing MDS is complicated by the generally advanced age of the patients (median ages, 65–70 years), attendant nonhematologic comorbidities, and relative inability to tolerate certain intensive forms of therapy among older patients. In addition, when the illness progresses to AML, these patients experience lower response rates to standard therapy than those with de novo AML.1 Diagnostic Classification Initial evaluation of patients with suspected MDS requires careful assessment of their peripheral blood smear and blood counts, marrow morphology, duration of their abnormal blood counts, other potential causes for their cytopenias, and concomitant illnesses. The French-American-British (FAB) classification initially categorized patients for the diagnostic evaluation of MDS.2 Dysplastic changes in at least 2 of the 3 hematopoietic cell lines have been used by most histopathologists to diagnose MDS. These changes include megaloblastoid erythropoiesis, nucleocytoplasmic asynchrony in the early myeloid and erythroid precursors, and dysmorphic megakaryocytes.3 Patients with MDS are classified as having 1 of 5 subtypes of disease: refractory anemia (RA); RA with ringed sideroblasts (RARS); RA with excess of blasts (RAEB); RAEB in transformation (RAEB-T); or chronic myelomonocytic leukemia...
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Peter L. Greenberg, Eyal Attar, John M. Bennett, Clara D. Bloomfield, Uma Borate, Carlos M. De Castro, H. Joachim Deeg, Olga Frankfurt, Karin Gaensler, Guillermo Garcia-Manero, Steven D. Gore, David Head, Rami Komrokji, Lori J. Maness, Michael Millenson, Margaret R. O’Donnell, Paul J. Shami, Brady L. Stein, Richard M. Stone, James E. Thompson, Peter Westervelt, Benton Wheeler, Dorothy A. Shead and Maoko Naganuma

The myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) represent a heterogeneous group of clonal hematopoietic disorders characterized by cytopenias, dysplasia in one or more myeloid lineages, and the potential for development of acute myeloid leukemia. These disorders primarily affect older adults. The NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology for MDS provide recommendations on the diagnostic evaluation and classification of MDS, risk evaluation according to established prognostic assessment tools (including the new revised International Prognostic Scoring System), treatment options according to risk categories, and management of related anemia.

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Margaret R. O'Donnell, Martin S. Tallman, Camille N. Abboud, Jessica K. Altman, Frederick R. Appelbaum, Daniel A. Arber, Vijaya Bhatt, Dale Bixby, William Blum, Steven E. Coutre, Marcos De Lima, Amir T. Fathi, Melanie Fiorella, James M. Foran, Steven D. Gore, Aric C. Hall, Patricia Kropf, Jeffrey Lancet, Lori J. Maness, Guido Marcucci, Michael G. Martin, Joseph O. Moore, Rebecca Olin, Deniz Peker, Daniel A. Pollyea, Keith Pratz, Farhad Ravandi, Paul J. Shami, Richard M. Stone, Stephen A. Strickland, Eunice S. Wang, Matthew Wieduwilt, Kristina Gregory and Ndiya Ogba

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is the most common form of acute leukemia among adults and accounts for the largest number of annual deaths due to leukemias in the United States. This portion of the NCCN Guidelines for AML focuses on management and provides recommendations on the workup, diagnostic evaluation, and treatment options for younger (age <60 years) and older (age ≥60 years) adult patients.