The ITP Syndrome: Pathogenic and Clinical Diversity

Immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) is mediated by platelet autoantibodies that accelerate platelet destruction and inhibit their production. Most cases are considered idiopathic, whereas others are secondary to coexisting conditions. Insights from secondary forms suggest that the proclivity to develop platelet-reactive antibodies arises through diverse mechanisms. Variability in natural history and response to therapy suggests that primary ITP is also heterogeneous. Certain cases may be secondary to persistent, sometimes inapparent, infections, accompanied by coexisting antibodies that influence outcome. Alternatively, underlying immune deficiencies may emerge. In addition, environmental and genetic factors may impact platelet turnover, propensity to bleed, and response to ITP-directed therapy. We review the pathophysiology of several common secondary forms of ITP. We suggest that primary ITP is also best thought of as an autoimmune syndrome. Better understanding of pathogenesis and tolerance checkpoint defects leading to autoantibody formation may facilitate patient-specific approaches to diagnosis and management.

Thrombopoietin Receptor Agonists: Ten Years Later

The two thrombopoietin receptor agonists (TPO-RA), eltrombopag and romiplostim, were licensed in the US for treatment of immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) in 2008 and, since then, their use has progressively increased around the world; they are currently used in more than 100 countries. The six largest randomized controlled trials conducted in ITP have used one of these two agents. All studies have demonstrated a platelet response rate between 50-90%, depending on the criteria used, with good safety and tolerability. TPO-RA were shown to be effective in reducing bleeding and the need for concomitant or rescue medication. Many other investigations of their mechanism of effect, prospective and retrospective trials, and studies focusing on toxicity have been performed widening our knowledge of these two agents. Initial concerns on issues such as myelofibrosis have not been confirmed. Only a small number of patients develop moderate-severe reticulin fibrosis and/or collagen fibrosis; however, these are usually reversed after discontinuation of TPO-RA. Studies indicate, however, that TPO-RA may increase the risk of venous thromboembolism. Both TPO-RA are currently approved in patients with chronic ITP aged >1-year who are refractory to at least one other treatment. Eltrombopag has acquired two additional indications: severe aplastic anemia refractory to first-line treatment and hepatitis C patients undergoing treatment with interferon-ribavirin. Despite these wide-ranging studies, important questions still need to be answered. This summary review on TPO-RA will summarize what is known regarding efficacy in ITP, evaluate safety concerns in more depth, and focus on the questions that remain.

Updated International Consensus Report on the Investigation and Management of Primary Immune Thrombocytopenia

ABSTRACT: Over the last decade, there have been numerous developments and changes in treatment practices for the management of patients with immune thrombocytopenia (ITP). This article is an update of the International Consensus Report published in 2010. A critical review was performed to identify all relevant articles published between 2009 and 2018. An expert panel screened, reviewed, and graded the studies and formulated the updated consensus recommendations based on the new data. The final document provides consensus recommendations on the diagnosis and management of ITP in adults, during pregnancy, and in children, as well as quality-of-life considerations.

Standardization of Bleeding Assessment in Immune Thrombocytopenia: Report From the International Working Group

ABSTRACT: In a previous publication on new terminology, definitions, and outcome criteria for immune thrombocytopenia (ITP), the International Working Group (IWG) on ITP acknowledged that response to treatment should consist of clinically meaningful end points such as bleeding manifestations and that platelet count may not be the ideal parameter for capturing the benefits of therapy. The IWG now proposes a consensus-based ITP-specific bleeding assessment tool (ITP-BAT) with definitions and terminology consistent with those adopted for other bleeding disorders. Bleeding manifestations were grouped into three major domains: skin (S), visible mucosae (M), and organs (O), with gradation of severity (SMOG). Each bleeding manifestation is assessed at the time of examination. Severity is graded from 0 to 3 or 4, with grade 5 for any fatal bleeding. Bleeding reported by the patient without medical documentation is graded 1. Within each domain, the same grade is assigned to bleeding manifestations of similar clinical impact. The “worst bleeding manifestation since the last visit” (observation period) is graded (a suitable database collection form is provided), and the highest grade within each domain is recorded. The SMOG system provides a consistent description of the bleeding phenotype in ITP, and the IWG unanimously supports its adoption and validation in future clinical studies.

Treatment of Primary and Secondary Immune Thrombocytopenia

Medical therapies for the treatment of immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) complicating SLE are increasingly being investigated as alternatives to splenectomy and IVIG. The purpose of this review is to highlight the therapies that are utilized in the treatment of primary ITP and ITP secondary to lupus.

Recent findings 

Corticosteroids are still the standard initial treatment of ITP, with the addition of IVIG when a rapid response is needed. There are few studies dedicated to assessing the efficacy of disease-modifying antirheumatic (DMARD), biologic, and nonimmunosuppressive agents as treatment for lupus thrombocytopenia/lupus ITP. Rituximab and thrombopoeitin mimetics have been the most extensively studied therapies for primary ITP in recent years. Results of trials show adequate initial responses; however, the duration of therapy and sustainability of responses are variable. Splenectomy is less often utilized.


Although corticosteroids, intravenous immunoglobulin and splenectomy have proven to be effective measures to treat immune thrombocytopenia, newer studies have demonstrated positive outcomes of immunosuppressives and thrombopoeitin mimetics. In most cases, the reported duration of therapy was not prolonged. More studies are needed to fully assess the effect of medical therapy in lupus ITP and to determine how long to continue maintenance therapy.

Why Do Patients With Immune Thrombocytopenia (ITP) Experience Lower Bleeding Events Despite Thrombocytopenia?

Immune thrombocytopenia is an autoimmune condition characterized by an isolated thrombocytopenia. Despite the low platelet levels, severe bleeding episodes are relatively rare suggesting that patients with ITP may have a protective factor against bleeding. Platelet microparticles (PMP) are thought to play a role in clot formation and some studies have demonstrated higher levels of circulating PMP in patients with ITP. This article provides a review of the epidemiology, mechanism, clinical presentation, management, and prognosis of ITP as well as a review of the literature and discussion regarding PMP and bleeding risk in ITP patients.

Emerging Concepts in Immune Thrombocytopenia

ABSTRACT: Immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) is an autoimmune disease defined by low platelet counts which presents with an increased bleeding risk. Several genetic risk factors (e.g., polymorphisms in immunity-related genes) predispose to ITP. Autoantibodies and cytotoxic CD8+ T cells (Tc) mediate the anti-platelet response leading to thrombocytopenia. Both effector arms enhance platelet clearance through phagocytosis by splenic macrophages or dendritic cells and by induction of apoptosis. Meanwhile, platelet production is inhibited by CD8+ Tc targeting megakaryocytes in the bone marrow. CD4+ T helper cells are important for B cell differentiation into autoantibody secreting plasma cells. Regulatory Tc are essential to secure immune tolerance, and reduced levels have been implicated in the development of ITP. Both Fcγ-receptor-dependent and -independent pathways are involved in the etiology of ITP. In this review, we present a simplified model for the pathogenesis of ITP, in which exposure of platelet surface antigens and a loss of tolerance are required for development of chronic anti-platelet responses. We also suggest that infections may comprise an important trigger for the development of auto-immunity against platelets in ITP. Post-translational modification of autoantigens has been firmly implicated in the development of autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes. Based on these findings, we propose that post-translational modifications of platelet antigens may also contribute to the pathogenesis of ITP.

Immune Thrombocytopenia: Improving Quality of Life and Patient Outcomes

Immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) is an immune-mediated disorder characterized by a reduced platelet count and patients may develop bruising or mucosal bleeding. Since 2003, generic health-related quality of life (HRQoL) measures have been applied and ITP-specific measures developed, alongside trials of novel therapeutic agents. These have identified significant morbidity in patients with ITP, including fatigue, fear of bleeding and a negative impact on role, social and work activities. This review critically evaluates HRQoL data in adults and children with ITP. It also considers the impact of treatment and how patient-reported outcomes might be applied to care to optimize patients’ quality of life.

Identifying and Treating Refractory ITP: Difficulty in Diagnosis and Role of Combination Treatment

ABSTRACT: Immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) is the most common acquired thrombocytopenia after chemotherapy-induced thrombocytopenia. Existing guidelines describe the management and treatment of most patients who, overall, do well, even if they present with chronic disease, and they are usually not at a high risk for bleeding; however, a small percentage of patients is refractory and difficult to manage. Patients classified as refractory have a diagnosis that is not really ITP or have disease that is difficult to manage. ITP is a diagnosis of exclusion; no specific tests exist to confirm the diagnosis. Response to treatment is the only affirmative confirmation of diagnosis. However, refractory patients do not respond to front-line or other treatments; thus, no confirmation of diagnosis exists. The first section of this review carefully evaluates the diagnostic considerations in patients with refractory ITP. The second section describes combination treatment for refractory cases of ITP. The reported combinations are divided into the era before thrombopoietin (TPO) and rituximab and the current era. Current therapy appears to have increased effectiveness. However, the definition of refractory, if it includes insufficient response to TPO agents, describes a group with more severe and difficult-to-treat disease. The biology of refractory ITP is largely unexplored and includes oligoclonality, lymphocyte pumps, and other possibilities. Newer treatments, especially rapamycin, fostamatinib, FcRn, and BTK inhibitors, may be useful components of future therapy given their mechanisms of action; however, TPO agents, notwithstanding failure as monotherapy, appear to be critical components. In summary, refractory ITP is a complicated entity in which a precise specific diagnosis is as important as the development of effective combination treatments.

Development of Disease-Specific Health-Related Quality-Of-Life Instruments for Children With Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura and Their Parents

ABSTRACT: Immune thrombopenic purpura (ITP) is an important childhood hematologic disorder that is often frightening to patients and their parents because of its acute onset and bleeding symptoms. There is no consensus on the management of ITP in children. Pediatric hematologists have differing management philosophies, yet most, explicitly or implicitly, incorporate into their management approach the potential impact on the child's and family's quality of life. There is no validated ITP-specific health-related quality-of-life instrument for use with children with ITP, nor is there one to evaluate the burden experienced by their parents. ITP is usually a self-limited disorder. With current controversy over management approaches, an evaluation of the disease burden experienced by the child and the family may assist with the assessment of alternative treatment approaches.