Blood Cells

A new combination therapy for previously untreated idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), an investigational oral treatment for chronic ITP, a low-dose platelet transfusion strategy for patients with hypoproliferative thrombocytopenia, and a new therapeutic platelet transfusion approach following high-dose chemotherapy and autologous stem cell transplantation, may benefit patients with various forms of thrombocytopenia.

Thrombocytopenia is a group of bleeding disorders characterized by a low number of platelets in the blood. Failed platelet production, increased splenic sequestration of platelets with normal platelet survival, increased platelet destruction or consumption, dilution of platelets, or a combination of these are the main causes of this condition.

Four studies presented during the during the 50th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Hematology in San Francisco, CA (December 6 – 9) on Saturday, highlighted significant advances in treatment and survival outcomes for patients with various forms of thrombocytopenia.

?We have some very exciting data on novel therapeutic approaches to minimize bleeding episodes in patients with platelet disorders,? explained Kenneth Kaushansky, MD, 2008 President of the American Society of Hematology and Helen M. Ranney Professor and Chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. ?The results of these studies will likely transform the way hematologists treat and manage these conditions, ultimately resulting in improvements in overall patient outcomes such as reducing bruising and unnecessary bleeding that can result if left untreated.?

Types of thrombocytopenia, a blood disorder with 50 to 150 new cases per 1 million people each year, are typically classified by one of three causes: low production of platelets in the bone marrow, increased breakdown of platelets in the bloodstream, or increased breakdown of platelets in the spleen or liver, which can be induced by certain anemias, cancers, infections, or medications. Symptoms can include bruising, nose bleeds, bleeding in the mouth, and rash-like spots on the skin.If left untreated, thrombocytopenia can become a life-threatening condition when blood platelet counts fall below 5,000 microliters because the risk of serious hemorrhaging or (excessive bleeding) increases. Normal blood platelet counts are typically between 150,000 to 450,000 microliters in adults. Treatment for thrombocytopenia is dependent on the cause and severity of the condition and can include drug therapy, splenectomy (the spleen breaks down blood cells such as platelets), and platelet transfusions.

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Last editorial review: December 9, 2008.

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