Home » Hydroxyurea treatment shown to reduce pain in young children with sickle cell disease
Chronic fatigue and pain can lower the life expectancy and quality of life in young children who suffer from sickle cell disease. The disease, which has no widely available cure, can cause life-long anemia and pain crises.
July 7, 2011 – Texas Children’s Sickle Cell Center
by Corbin Dodge
A recent study by that National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), suggest that a treatment used for sickle cell disease in adults may now be safe for children ages 8 to 19 months.
Chronic fatigue and pain can lower the life expectancy and quality of life in young children who suffer from sickle cell disease. The disease, which has no widely available cure, can cause life-long anemia and pain crises. Some patients may undergo periodic blood transfusions to increase their levels of healthy red blood cells, rather than the misshapen sickle-shaped cells that reduce blood flow to tissue, resulting in pain.
“We want to improve the quality of life for our patients,” said Dr. Brigitta Mueller, Director of the Sickle Cell Center at Texas Children’s Hospital, “and a treatment that allows them to stay out of the hospital is a big improvement in the comfort levels of children who may otherwise be in pain.”
Hydroxyurea in children was shown to decrease pain episodes by nearly 50%. Marked improvements in spleen and kidney function are also associated with Hydroxyurea treatment. Acute chest syndrome, which is an infection similar to pneumonia, has also been shown to respond to Hydroxyurea.
“Some of the symptoms that sickle cell patients have can be life-threatening. Managing these symptoms can be difficult and a treatment that lowers adverse events can be life changing,” said Mueller.
Hydroxyurea was originally created to treat cancer, but it has been shown to be a promising treatment for sickle cell disorder. The Texas Children’s Sickle Cell Center, where over 1,000 children with sickle cell are being treated, has been using Hydroxyurea successfully in older children and will now start to offer it to young children who might benefit from it.
Results from the Pediatric Hydroxyurea Phase III Clinical Trial, also known as Baby HUG, were published in the Lancet.
For more information about this Hydroxyurea study by the National Institutes of Health, see:
NIH-funded study finds sickle cell treatment safe for young children: Drug used for adults helps reduce pain, improve blood counts in children, National Institutes of Health, NIH News (May 12, 2011).