Luspatercept (Reblozyl) was recently approved for treating patients with transfusion-dependent lower-risk myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) with ring sideroblasts (RS) and/or SF3B1 mutation who were not eligible for erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs) or patients for whom those agents failed. Luspatercept acts as an activin receptor type IIB fusion protein ligand trap that targets the altered transforming growth factor beta pathway in MDS, which is associated with impaired terminal erythroid maturation. Treatment with luspatercept results in decreased SMAD signaling, which enables erythroid maturation by means of late-stage erythroblast differentiation and thus improves anemia. ESAs, the current standard first-line therapeutic option for anemic lower-risk patients with MDS, also improve red cell parameters mainly by expanding proliferation of early erythroid progenitor cells. However, erythropoietin (EPO) and its receptor (EPO-R) are also required for survival of late-stage definitive erythroid cells, and they play an essential role in promoting proliferation, survival, and appropriate timing of terminal maturation of primitive erythroid precursors. Thus, luspatercept joins the mechanism of ESAs in promoting erythroid maturation. Especially in the subgroup of MDS patients with RS, luspatercept showed high clinical activity for the treatment of anemia in the phase 2 (PACE-MDS) trial and subsequently in the phase 3 (MEDALIST) trial, which resulted in approval by both the US Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency in April 2020. Additional studies are needed to better understand the mechanism of action and pharmacodynamics of this novel agent in MDS.
© 2021 by The American Society of Hematology.