Neurocognitive improvement with hydroxyurea therapy in children with sickle cell anemia in Uganda: Interim analysis at month 18

Shubaya Naggayi, Dennis Kalibala, Robert Opoka, Caterina Rosano, Deogratias Munube, Phillip Kasirye, Ezekiel Mupere, Vincent Mboizi, John Ssenkusu, Nancy Green

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Introduction: Cerebrovascular injury can lead to neurocognitive impairment in children with sickle cell anemia (SCA). The prospective impact of hydroxyurea therapy on neurocognitive function has not been previously reported in a large sample of children with SCA in sub-Saharan Africa. We assessed the impact of hydroxyurea therapy at the trial's18-month midpoint on neurocognitive function compared to baseline assessments and to non-SCA controls.

Methods: A sample of267 children with SCA, ages 3 to 9 years, were randomly selected for screening and enrollment from eligible patients who attended the Mulago Hospital Sickle Cell Clinic (MHSCC). BRAIN SAFE II is an open label hydroxyurea treatment trial with escalation to maximal tolerated dose. Primary outcomes are stroke, stroke risk and neurocognitive assessment. Controls were aged 3 to 12 years and siblings/relatives of participants with SCA.Attention, cognition and executive function were assessed for all participants by age-appropriate neurocognitive testing. Controlsestablished test z-scores for each age. Baseline (month 0) SCA group z-scores were compared to the controls and to the SCA sample at trial month 18.

Results: At trial baseline, SCA trial participants (n=267) were younger than the control group (mean age 5.1±1.7 vs. 7.1± 3.9 years, p

Conclusion: After 18 months of hydroxyurea therapy reaching MTD dosing, children showed significant improvements in attention and cognition, with more modest improvements in executive function. Their scores moved closer to those from non-SCA controls in most subtests. These findings suggest that hydroxyurea therapy may play an important role in enhancing overall neurocognitive function in children with SCA. Trial procedures are ongoing to assess the effects from longer-term therapy.

Original languageUndefined/Unknown
JournalPaediatrics and Child Health, East Africa
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2023

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