ATG therapy for Aplastic Anemia

Immunosuppressive therapy helps in effectively treating severe aplastic anemia. This therapy involves mainly a combination of cyclosporine (CsA) and ATG therapy. Although, in some patients, this therapy also might not show any remarkable improvement in the blood count.

ATG therapy helps in lowering the immune response of the body. It further prevents immune system o the body to attack its own bone marrow and it provides a buffer period for the transplanted stem cells to grow and regenerate to raise up the blood count.

What role does ATG therapy play in the immune system of the body?

Antithymocyte globulin (ATG) therapy is an approved way of treating acquired aplastic anemia. ATG therapy helps in preventing organ rejection against any kind of transplant including kidney or any other organ or stem cell transplant in the body. ATG therapy is sold under several brand names like Atgam etc.

The mechanism of action of ATG therapy involves specifically targeting some immune system cells like T-lymphocytes, which tend to attack the bone marrow cells during aplastic anemia phase. This allows transplanted stem cells to rebuild and perform its action of increasing blood count and reach up to healthy levels.

The route of administration for ATG therapy is mainly IV infusion. It is administered into the vein for a duration of 8 to 12 hours daily, for at least 4 days. This schedule might vary depending upon few factors like type of ATG therapy used or condition of the patient etc. There is no specific schedule to follow in every case since the requirement of every individual varies.

How effectively ATG therapy works?

The efficacy of ATG therapy might vary in results for each individual. However, it is proven by several types of research that blood count of the patient in aplastic anemia improved remarkably half of the time with ATG therapy. The effects of ATG therapy gets more prominent if used in combination therapy with cyclosporin and Promacta etc. By this 7 among 10 patients experienced an improved blood count during research. ATG therapy works so well for aplastic anemia patients that within three months of therapy blood transfusion requirement reduces and finally stops. Although this might take nearly 9 months in some cases and the results tend to be positive in most cases except few rare cases which require another treatment after ATG therapy.

Aplastic anemia patients are usually provided with inpatient care to deal with infections or certain complications which might arise rarely during ATG therapy or HCT therapy. Further iron chelation and blood transfusions etc are also required at times as additional treatment. Although, most of the cases get a safe cure after treatment with ATG therapy.

Is ATG therapy safe during pregnancy?

Pregnant women with the condition of aplastic anemia tend to have a risk of relapse of the disease. So in such cases, ATG therapy alone or in combination with cyclosporine helps in combating aplastic anemia condition. Although, it might require several outpatient follow-ups to keep the condition under check and immediate treatment for side effects if any arises. In extreme cases, blood transfusions might also be required if ATG therapy alone is not able to show effective results.

Aplastic anemia and idiopathy are they connected?

In idiopathic aplastic anemia, the bone marrow stops production of new blood cells. It can further lead to serious complications. In an anemic person functioning of RBCs gets affected remarkably and so does its oxygen carrying capacity. This makes the body oxygen deficient and weak as well as tired.

RBCs contain a protein component known as hemoglobin, which helps in carrying oxygen. Oxygen is transported within the entire body using hemoglobin. So this protein component containing iron is essential for binding oxygen and it also provides color to the blood. A simple case of anemia might appear similar to aplastic anemia although both of them are different. Anemia is easily treatable, however, aplastic anemia is a tricky condition to treat. Aplastic anemia is a fatal condition which needs immediate attention of your doctor for the right treatment approach.

What is the root cause of Aplastic Anemia disease?

Aplastic Anemia has its main root cause with bone marrow defects.

Stem cells in the bone marrow hold the sole responsibility of producing new red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. If this mechanism gets disrupted due to any reason than it leads to aplastic anemia. This alteration of stem cell mechanism causes very less formation of new blood cells leading to further complications of health.

Several things can contribute to bone marrow damage. Many factors are linked as reasons for causing this disease, especially in idiopathic aplastic anemia. This disease is also known as one of the autoimmune diseases since it involves attacking its own cells like in any infection.

Few other causes might include:

•   The adverse reaction caused by any epilepsy or arthritis drugs.

•   Exposure to chemicals in the industry like benzene, or any inorganic solvents etc.

•   Chemotherapy or even radiation exposure can damage the stem cells causing aplastic anemia.

•   Anorexia nervosa is also linked as aplastic anemia cause.

•   Even some viruses like HIV, herpes, Epstein-Barr etc are also contributors to aplastic anemia.

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Related FAQs:

Q: How much is the success of ATG therapy?

A: Immunosuppressive therapies are very effective and it involves a combined usage of anti-thymocyte globulin or ATG therapy and cyclosporine. This combination therapy has been rated to provide 60-80% of response rate with a 5-year survival rate of nearly 75%. Although, event-free rates of survival are comparatively lesser ranging 35-50%.

Q: Can aplastic anemia be cured completely?

A: Stem cell transplantation helps in curing aplastic anemia in people who are eligible for transplant. Another way of curing the disease might include finding a root cause like exposure towards toxins etc and preventing it further to give a complete cure. For few elderly as well as such patients who do not get a matching bone marrow for transplant immunosuppressive therapy can help them survive longer.

Q: What are the common early signs of aplastic anemia to know I have it?

A: Some of the very common symptoms of aplastic anemia include chest pain and shortness of breath, dizziness, pale skin, headache, uncontrolled bleeding of a nose, gums or even heavy menstrual bleeding, and easy bruising etc.