Acquired aplastic anemia is an immune-mediated disease characterized by severe defects in stem cell number resulting in hypocellular marrow and peripheral blood cytopenias. Minor paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria populations and a short telomere length were identified as predictive biomarkers of immunosuppressive therapy responsiveness in aplastic anemia. We enrolled 113 aplastic anemia patients (63 boys and 50 girls) in this study to evaluate their response to immunosuppressive therapy. The paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria populations and telomere length were detected by flow cytometry. Forty-seven patients (42%) carried a minor paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria population. The median telomere length of aplastic anemia patients was −0.99 standard deviation (SD) (range −4.01–+3.01 SD). Overall, 60 patients (53%) responded to immunosuppressive therapy after six months. Multivariate logistic regression analysis identified the absence of a paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria population and a shorter telomere length as independent unfavorable predictors of immunosuppressive therapy response at six months. The cohort was stratified into a group of poor prognosis (paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria negative and shorter telomere length; 37 patients) and good prognosis (paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria positive and/or longer telomere length; 76 patients), respectively. The response rates of the poor prognosis and good prognosis groups at six months were 19% and 70%, respectively (P<0.001). The combined absence of a minor paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria population and a short telomere length is an efficient predictor of poor immunosuppressive therapy response, which should be considered while deciding treatment options: immunosuppressive therapy or first-line hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.
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