Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

No definitive cure or treatment for myelodysplastic syndromes exists. Instead, most people receive supportive care to help manage symptoms such as fatigue and to prevent bleeding and infections.

Blood transfusions

Blood transfusions can be used to replace red blood cells, white blood cells or platelets in people with myelodysplastic syndromes.

Medications

Medications used to increase the number of healthy blood cells your body produces include:

  • Medications that increase the number of blood cells your body makes. Called growth factors, these medications are artificial versions of substances found naturally in your bone marrow. Some growth factors, such as erythropoietin alfa (Epogen) or darbepoetin alfa (Aranesp), can reduce the need for blood transfusions by increasing red blood cells. Others may help prevent infections by increasing white blood cells in people with certain myelodysplastic syndromes.
  • Medications that stimulate blood cells to mature, rather than remain immature. Medications such as azacitidine (Vidaza) and decitabine (Dacogen) may improve the quality of life of people with certain myelodysplastic syndromes and help delay progression to acute myelogenous leukemia. But these drugs aren't effective in all people, and some can cause further blood cell problems.
  • Medications that suppress your immune system. Medications used to suppress the immune system may be used in certain myelodysplastic syndromes.
  • Medication for people with a certain genetic abnormality. If your myelodysplastic syndrome is associated with a genetic abnormality called isolated del(5q), your doctor may recommend lenalidomide (Revlimid). Lenalidomide may reduce the need for blood transfusions in people with this abnormality.

Bone marrow stem cell transplant

During a bone marrow stem cell transplant, your defective blood cells are destroyed using powerful chemotherapy drugs. Then the abnormal bone marrow stem cells are replaced with healthy, donated cells (allogeneic transplant). Unfortunately, few people are candidates for this procedure because of the high risks involved in transplanting in older adults — those most likely to have myelodysplastic syndromes. Even among young, relatively healthy people, the risk of transplant-related complications is high.

Nov. 04, 2011