BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Novel therapeutic agents and strategies have been introduced into the management of myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) in the last years. This has led to more treatment options and a better chance of long-term survival for MDS patients, but also to uncertainty regarding the optimal use and possible side effects of these treatments. The Italian Society of Hematology commissioned a project to develop guidelines for the therapy of MDS using evidence-based knowledge and consensus-formation techniques. DESIGN AND METHODS: An Advisory Council (AC) shaped the project around a series of key clinical questions, performed a systematic search for evidence and graded the available evidence according to the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN). A list of clinical questions was mailed to each of 10 senior hematologists composing the Expert Panel (EP): the panelists were asked to rank the most relevant questions, and to formulate answers to the questions according to the tables of evidence. A scenario phase followed, so as to reach a consensus on the three top ranked questions. The EP was asked to score patient profiles as appropriate or not appropriate for the therapeutic strategy under scrutiny, according to the RAND technique. Finally, from September 2001 to January 2002, four Consensus Conferences conducted according to the Nominal Group Technique were held in Milan, Italy. The overall goal of the conferences was to take a final decision upon the appropriateness of the uncertain scenarios and of the uncertain responses to the clinical questions. RESULTS: Evidence was judged sufficient for providing recommendations on the use of allogeneic stem cell transplantation, leukemia-like chemotherapy, autologous stem cell transplantation, low-dose chemotherapy, danazol, immunosuppressive therapy, hypomethylating agents and hematopoietic growth factors. Specific recommendations for supportive therapy, including iron chelation, were issued. Allogeneic stem cell transplantation was unanimously considered as the only curative treatment for MDS patients, and recommendations on its use were agreed based on patient's age, risk, clinical features and donor availability. AML-like chemotherapy was also considered a valuable therapeutic option for subsets of MDS patients. Autologous stem cell transplantation was recommended for patients who lack an HLA identical donor and have achieved complete remission with AML-like chemotherapy. Decitabine, recombinant human erythropoietin and immunosuppressive therapy were judged valuable therapeutic options for subsets of MDS patients whereas low-dose cytarabine was not.Specific therapeutic strategies for those subjects younger than 18 years or older than 75 years and the strategy of watchful waiting were decided by patient-oriented questions. INTERPRETATION AND CONCLUSIONS: Using evidence and consensus, recommendations for the treatment of MDS were issued. Statements were graded according to the strength of the supporting evidence and uncertainty was explicitly declared.
Vol. 87 No. 12 (2002): December, 2002 : Guidelines
Ferrata Storti Foundation, Pavia, Italy
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