Sickle cell disease (SCD) is the most common genetic disease in the world. Approximately 150,000 Nigerian children are born each year with SCD, making it the country with the largest burden of sickle cell disease in the world. SCD is the most common cause of stroke in children and results in considerable morbidity in affected children. The current primary prevention approach of regular monthly blood transfusion therapy of children at high risk of stroke (identified by elevated transcranial Doppler measurements) is not feasible in a low income country such as Nigeria due to scarcity of supply, cost, and high rate of blood borne infections. In the United States, hydroxyurea (HU) is standard therapy for adults with SCD and may be a reasonable prevention alternative to regular blood transfusion for treatment of primary stroke in high-risk children. Given large absolute numbers of individuals with SCD in Nigeria, HU therapy for all individuals with SCD may not be initially feasible;however, a targeted strategy of HU use for primary prevention of strokes is an alternative to the standard therapy (observation) for high-risk individuals. We therefore propose a feasibility study to determine the acceptability of randomization to HU vs. placebo for primary prevention of strokes in Nigerian children with sickle cell anemia (SCA) in preparation for a NIH sponsored multicenter, phase III Trial. We will establish a safety protocol for using HU in a clinical trial setting and complete the necessary preparations for a definitive phase III trial. To accomplish these aims we have assembled a strong multidisciplinary team representing Vanderbilt University and two premier in-country institutions: Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Nigeria, and Friends in Global Health-Nigeria. Completion of a definitive trial will not only benefit children wth SCA in sub-Saharan Africa, where the majority of children with SCA live in the world, but could provide reasonable evidence for an alternative to blood transfusion therapy for the primary prevention of strokes in the US. To our knowledge this would be the first stroke prevention trial in Nigeria and could establish a precedent to expand to secondary stroke prevention for children and adults with SCA, as regrettably, no therapy is available to prevent recurrent stroke in these high-risk patients in resource-poor nations.

Public Health Relevance

Sickle cell disease is the most common cause of stroke in children, resulting in considerable morbidity among affected children. Nigeria has the largest burden of the disease in the world, but the standard therapy for primary prevention of stroke in these high-risk children (recurrent transfusions) is not readily available. A feasibility trial of hydroxyurea for primary prevention of stroke in sickle cell disease could provide evidence for an alternative approach to recurrent transfusions in a part of the world where safe blood services are not readily accessible.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-BDCN-N (55))
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Hirtz, Deborah G
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Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Schools of Medicine
United States
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Galadanci, Najibah A; Abdullahi, Shehu U; Tabari, Musa A et al. (2015) Primary stroke prevention in Nigerian children with sickle cell disease (SPIN): challenges of conducting a feasibility trial. Pediatr Blood Cancer 62:395-401