Background: The median overall survival of patients with high-risk myelodysplastic syndromes refractory to hypomethylating agents is less than 6 months. Currently, no standard therapy for such patients exists. Preclinical studies have shown that inhibition of the nuclear export protein exportin 1 (XPO1) causes nuclear accumulation of p53 and disruption of NF-κB signalling, both relevant targets for myelodysplastic syndromes. We therefore aimed to assess the safety and activity of selinexor in patients with myelodysplastic syndromes or oligoblastic acute myeloid leukaemia refractory to hypomethylating agents. Methods: We did a single-centre, single-arm, phase 2 trial at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in the USA. We included patients 18 years or older with high-risk myelodysplastic syndromes or oligoblastic acute myeloid leukaemia (defined as blasts ≥20% but ≤30%) refractory to hypomethylating agents and with an Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status score of 0–2. Eligible patients received 3-week long cycles of oral selinexor (60 mg twice per week for 2 weeks, followed by 1 week off). The primary outcome was overall response rate. Complete remission, partial remission, marrow complete remission, or haematological improvement were included in the response categories for assessing the primary endpoint. The activity analysis included all patients who completed at least one full-scheduled post-treatment disease assessment. All patients who were given selinexor were included in the safety analysis. This study is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT02228525. Findings: Between Sept 23, 2014, and March 13, 2018, 25 patients were enrolled on this study. The median follow-up was 8·5 months (IQR 3·1–12·2). Two patients did not meet the full eligibility criteria after baseline assessment; therefore, 23 patients were evaluable for activity assessment. In the 23 evaluable patients, overall response rate was 26% (95% CI 10–48) in six patients with marrow complete remission, with an additional 12 patients (52%, 95% CI 31–73) achieving stable disease. The most common grade 3 or 4 adverse events were thrombocytopenia (eight [32%] of 25 patients) and hyponatraemia (five [20%]). There were no drug-related serious adverse events and no treatment-related deaths. Interpretation: Selinexor showed responses in patients with myelodysplastic syndromes or oligoblastic acute myeloid leukaemia refractory to hypomethylating agents. Adverse events were manageable with supportive care implementation. Further studies are needed to compare selinexor with supportive care alone, and to identify patient subgroups that might benefit the most from selinexor treatment. Funding: Karyopharm Therapeutics.
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