We report a 41 year old male with sickle cell disease who developed a myelodysplastic syndrome and acute myeloid leukemia with complex karyotype involving chromosomes 5, 7 and 17 after 15 years of hydroxyurea treatment. He responded poorly to induction chemotherapy with cytarabine/idarubicin followed by high dose cytarabine and succumbed to neutropenic sepsis. Multiple systematic reviews, observational studies and clinical trials were conducted to identify the toxicity profile of hydroxurea. Only six cases of leukemia/myelodysplastic syndrome were identified in patients with sickle cell anemia treated with hydroxyurea. Subsequently, it was concluded that hydroxyurea is not leukemogenic. However, it was noted that most of the published studies had only up to 9 years of follow-up. Our patient was started on hydroxyurea in 1990, before the widespread use of the drug and took hydroxyurea for 15 years. His presentation may reflect an outcome otherwise not yet observed because of the short follow-up of prior studies. We believe that the leukemogenic risk of hydroxyurea should be discussed with the patients and their families. Studies evaluating the adverse effects of hydroxyurea should have longer follow-up before definitive conclusions are drawn.
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