This placebo-controlled phase II study evaluated the pharmacodynamics, efficacy and safety of 2,2-dimethylbutyrate (HQK-1001), a fetal globin gene-inducing short-chain fatty acid derivative, administered orally at 15 mg/kg twice daily for 48 weeks in 76 subjects with sickle cell disease (SCD). The median age was 26 years (range: 12-55 years) and 37 subjects (49%) were treated previously with hydroxycarbamide. Sixty subjects (79%) had Hb SS and 16 (21%) had S/β0 thalassemia. The study was terminated after a planned interim analysis showed no significant increase in fetal hemoglobin (Hb F) and a trend for more pain crises in the HQK-1001 group. For 54 subjects with Week 24 data, the mean absolute increase in Hb F was 0.9% (95% confidence interval (CI): 0.1-1.6%) with HQK-1001 and 0.2% (95% CI: -0.7-1.1%) with placebo. Absolute increases in Hb F greater than 3% were noted in 9 of 38 subjects (24%) administered HQK-1001 and 1 of 38 subjects (3%) administered placebo. The mean changes in hemoglobin at Week 24 were comparable between the two groups. The mean annualized rate of pain crises was 3.5 with HQK-1001 and 1.7 with placebo. The most common adverse events in the HQK-1001 group, usually graded as mild or moderate, consisted of nausea, headache, vomiting, abdominal pain, and fatigue. Additional studies of HQK-1001 at this dose and schedule are not recommended in SCD. Intermittent HQK-1001 administration, rather than a daily regimen, may be better tolerated and more effective, as shown previously with arginine butyrate, and warrants further evaluation. Am. J. Hematol. 89:709-713, 2014.
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