- Top of page
- Discovery of the pathophysiology of ITP
- Thrombopoietin and the first-generation thrombopoietin-mimetic agents
- Clinical development programme
- Where next in the management of patients with chronic ITP
Immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) is an autoimmune disorder characterised by abnormally low platelet counts (<100 × 109/l), purpura, and bleeding episodes, and can be categorised in three phases: newly-diagnosed, persistent, and chronic. As many patients become refractory to standard treatments (corticosteroids, danazol, azathioprine, splenectomy), there is an urgent need for alternative treatments. The successful isolation and cloning of thrombopoietin (TPO) in the mid-1990s and identification of its key role in platelet production was a major breakthrough, rapidly followed by the development of the recombinant thrombopoietins, recombinant human TPO and a pegylated truncated product, PEG-rHuMGDF. Both agents increased platelet counts but development was halted because of the development of antibodies that cross-reacted with native TPO, resulting in prolonged treatment-refractory thrombocytopenia. Experimentation with novel platforms for extending the circulating half-life of therapeutic peptides by combining them with antibody fragment crystallisable (Fc) constructs led to the development of a new family of molecules termed ‘peptibodies’. The 60Da recombinant peptibody romiplostim was finally produced by linking several copies of an active TPO-binding peptide sequence to a carrier Fc fragment. In clinical trials, romiplostim was effective in ameliorating thrombocytopenia in patients with chronic ITP, was well tolerated and did not elicit cross-reacting antibodies. Romiplostim has recently been approved for the treatment of adults with chronic ITP.