Valproic acid at therapeutic plasma levels may increase 5-azacytidine efficacy in higher risk myelodysplastic syndromes.

Maria Teresa Voso, Gina Zini Tanzi, Emiliano Fabiani, Giuseppe Leone

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93 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Epigenetic changes play a role and cooperate with genetic alterations in the pathogenesis of myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). We conducted a phase II multicenter study on the combination of the DNA-methyltransferase inhibitor 5-azacytidine (5-AZA) and the histone deacetylase inhibitor valproic acid (VPA) in patients with higher risk MDS. Experimental Design: We enrolled 62 patients with MDS (refractory anemia with excess blasts, 39 patients; refractory anemia with excess blasts in transformation, 19 patients; and chronic myelomanocytic leukemia (CMML), 4 patients) and an International Prognostic Scoring System (IPSS) rating of Intermediate-2 (42 patients) or high (20 patients). VPA was given to reach a plasma concentration of >50 μg/mL, then 5-AZA was added s.c. at 75 mg/m2 for 7days in eight monthly cycles. Results: The median overall survival was 14.4 months. At a median follow-up of 12 months (range, 0.7-21.0), the disease progressed in 20 patients, with 21% cumulative incidence of progression. Of 26 patients who completed eight cycles, 30.7% obtained complete or partial remission, 15.4% had a major hematologic improvement, whereas 38.5% showed stable disease. Drug-related toxicity was mild. Favorable prognostic factors for survival were IPSS Intermediate-2 and plasma VPA of ≥50 μg/mL (log rank = 0.013 and 0.007, respectively). Analysis of polymorphisms important for the metabolism of the drugs used in the trial showed that carriers of the CYP2C19*2 variant of cytochrome P450 required higher VPA doses to achieve the target VPA plasma concentration of 50 μg/mL on day 1 of 5-AZA treatment (P = 0.0021). Conclusion: Our data show that the 5-AZA/VPA combination is active and safe in patients with MDS with a poor prognosis. Achievement of VPA therapeutic levels may indeed increase 5-AZA efficacy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5002-5007
Number of pages6
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • 5-azacitidine
  • MDS


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