Assessment of genotoxicity associated with hydroxyurea therapy in children with sickle cell anemia


Hydroxyurea induces fetal hemoglobin, improves laboratory parameters, and ameliorates clinical complications of sickle cell anemia (SCA), but its long-term efficacy and safety in this patient population remain incompletely defined. Although generally considered non-DNA reactive, an important safety concern is that hydroxyurea may indirectly cause genotoxic damage. To better address this safety issue of hydroxyurea in patients with SCA, we measured the production of micronuclei (MN) in red blood cells (RBCs) as a marker of genotoxicity.Blood samples were collected from children with SCA enrolled in the Hydroxyurea Study of Long-term Effects ( NCT00305175). Flow cytometry quantified circulating MN-containing erythrocyte sub-populations before and during hydroxyurea exposure. The frequency of micronucleated reticulocytes (MN-CD71 +) and micronucleated mature erythrocytes (MN-RBC) was then tested for associations with laboratory and clinical data. In cross-sectional analysis of 293 blood samples from 105 children with SCA and a median of 2 years of hydroxyurea therapy, exposure to hydroxyurea was associated with significantly increased frequencies of MN-CD71 + and MN-RBC compared to baseline. The increases were evident by 3 months of therapy, and did not escalate further with up to 12 years of continuous drug exposure. In prospective longitudinal analysis, substantial inter-individual variation in the effect of hydroxyurea on %MN-CD71 + was observed that was associated with the expected laboratory effects of hydroxyurea.In conclusion, clinically relevant exposure to hydroxyurea is associated with increased MN production consistent with erythroblast genotoxicity but with substantial inter-patient variability. Associations between increased %MN-CD71 + and laboratory benefits suggest that hydroxyurea effects on MN production may be related to individual patient sensitivity to hydroxyurea within the bone marrow. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.

Publication Title

Mutation Research - Genetic Toxicology and Environmental Mutagenesis