• myelodysplastic syndromes;
  • erythropoiesis-stimulating agent;
  • erythroid response;
  • haemoglobin;
  • transfusion


Patients with myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) often develop anaemia resulting in frequent transfusions and fatigue. Darbepoetin alfa is an erythropoiesis-stimulating agent (ESA) approved for treating chemotherapy-induced anaemia. This single-arm, phase 2 study examined the efficacy of darbepoetin alfa 500 μg every 3 weeks (Q3W) for treating anaemia in low-risk MDS patients (after 6 weeks, poor responders received darbepoetin alfa 500 μg every 2 weeks). The primary end-point was the incidence of erythroid responses (International Working Group criteria) after 13 weeks of therapy. Secondary end-points included the incidence of erythroid responses at weeks 28 and 55, [or weeks 27 and 53 for dose escalations to every two weeks (Q2W)], and safety parameters. Analyses were stratified by the patient’s previous ESA therapy status [ESA-naïve (n = 144) vs. prior ESA-treated (n = 62)]. After 13 weeks of therapy, 49% of ESA-naïve patients and 26% of prior ESA-treated patients achieved a major erythroid response. After 53/55 weeks, 59% of ESA-naïve patients and 34% of prior ESA-treated patients achieved a major erythroid response; 82% of ESA-naïve patients and 55% of prior ESA-treated patients achieved target haemoglobin of 110 g/l. Thromboembolic or related adverse events occurred in 2% of patients; no pulmonary embolisms were reported. In conclusion, darbepoetin alfa, 500 μg Q3W appeared well tolerated and increased haemoglobin levels in low-risk MDS patients.