Effects of the differentiating agent hexamethylene bisacetamide on normal and myelodysplastic hematopoietic progenitors

Eric K. Rowinsky, Ross C. Donehower, Jerry L. Spivak, Philip J. Burke, Constance A. Griffin, Richard J. Jones

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10 Scopus citations


Hexamethylene bisacetamide (HMBA; NSC 95580) is a potent polar-planar differentiating agent of leukemia and solid tumor cell lines in vitro at clinically achievable concentrations. HMBA is currently being studied in patients with myelodysplastic syndrome. Previous phase I trials have demonstrated that HMBA produces hematologic toxicity in morphologically normal bone marrows of patients with solid tumors. Because of concern that HMBA may produce more severe myelotoxicity in patients with myelodysplastic syndrome since these patients have limited hema-topoietic reserves, we studied the effects of HMBA on myelodysplastic and normal hematopoietic progenitors in vitro. HMBA concentrations that are optimal for differentiation in vitro (2 to 5 mmol/L) and HMBA concentrations that are being achieved in clinical trials (1 to 2 mmol/L) inhibited the growth of granulocyte-macrophage colony-forming units and erythroid burst-forming units from all 15 patients with myelodysplastic syndrome and all 4 normal subjects. HMBA did not induce proliferation of myelodysplastic or normal progenitors at any concentration; rather, it produced nearly identical inhibition of normal and myelodysplastic hematopoietic progenitors. HMBA also produced quantitatively similar inhibition of clonogenic leukemic growth of two myeloid leukemia cell lines. For a differentiating agent to be effective, it will likely have to either produce both differentiation and proliferation of abnormal hematopoietic progenitors or show selective inhibitory effects on abnormal as compared with normal progenitors. Although the mechanisms responsible for the anti-proliferative effects of HMBA cannot be determined from this study, similar inhibitory effects of HMBA on normal and abnormal hematopoietic progenitors suggest that HMBA may be of limited utility in producing and sustaining elevations of peripheral blood cell counts in patients with myelodys-plastic syndrome. [J Natl Cancer Inst 82:1926-1931,1990].

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1926-1931
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the National Cancer Institute
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 19 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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