Article posted on November 24, 2012
DISCLAIMER: This document is written by a layperson who has Evans Syndrome, not a healthcare professional. The information presented herein is provided with the understanding that it is not "gospel", as it were, but a frank look at Evans Syndrome facts and statistics from a layperson's point of view. This information should never replace advice given to you by your doctor or other healthcare professional.
Evans Syndrome is an uncommon condition defined by the combination (either concurrently or sequentially) of an attack on two or more lines of blood, including red blood cells (Autoimmune Hemolytic anemia), platelets (Ideopathic Thrombocytopenia or ITP), and white blood cells, also known as leukocytes. This occurs when the immune system mistakenly targets these cells for destruction, and the spleen subsequently destroys them. Autoimmune cytopenia can be a sign of systemic autoimmune disease, such as Lupus or other connective tissue disorder, and the patient should be tested appropriately. (Mikhail Shtivelband, MD, PhD, and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16398647
common misconception that we see in the general public seems to be: "If it's not cancer, then it must not be serious." It's true that Evans Syndrome is not cancer: It is not true that Evans Syndrome is not serious. Evans Syndrome is very serious. A report in the Journal of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology showed that Evans Syndrome has an approximately 7% mortality rate after 3 years. Evans Syndrome: Results of a National Survey This study was published in 1997, and treatment has changed since then, so the mortality rate may not be quite as high today; however it is the only solid statistic with regard to mortality that can be provided in the text you are currently reading.
In order to obtain a diagnosis of Evans Syndrome (ES), certain other health problems must first be eliminated. For example, the symptoms of ES are very similar in nature to leukemia and lymphoma. As a result, both leukemia and lymphoma must be ruled out prior to a diagnosis of ES. A bone marrow biopsy is done to closely examine the body's mechanism for blood cell creation. A battery of blood tests reveals that there is no other reason for the low blood counts, as well as the presence of antibodies that are targeting healthy blood cells for destruction (Coombs test).
While awaiting diagnosis, blood transfusions may be given, as well as Intravenous Immunoglobulin (IVIg), which coats the blood cells, protecting them from destruction; and IV steroids, which slows down the immune system, helping to shut down the mechanism that is destroying the blood cells.
Once a diagnosis of Evans Syndrome is obtained, aggressive therapy is undertaken in order to shut down the immune system reaction to the blood cells. Most frequently this is done with very large doses of corticosteroids such as Prednisone or Decadron. Evans Syndrome does tend to be refractory to treatment, in which case additional medications may be used, including but not limited to certain chimeric monoclonal antibody treatments (Remicade, Rituxan, etc.), and anti-rejection drugs (Imuran, Cellcept, Cyclosporine, etc.).
If a person with ES still does not respond to treatment, or should they continue to experience refractory episodes, splenectomy (removal of the spleen) may be considered. This is an invasive procedure that leaves the person without all of the body's natural defenses to infection. Because of this, a person without a spleen is wise to take extra precautions to prevent infection or exposure to illness throughout the rest of their life. Unfortunately, splenectomy is not always successful, sometimes requiring further treatment with the aforementioned drugs even after removal of the spleen.
There are cases where no amount of drug treatment or surgical intervention helps, and the doctors may then recommend a bone marrow transplant. This is a very dangerous procedure, as the person must be given a battery of drugs to kill off their immune system, and then receive bone marrow stem cells from a donor. Marrow transplants for cancer can be done with autologous cells (taken from the person who is also to receive the transplant), however it is the understanding of this author that this is not the best choice for a person with Evans Syndrome.
Evans Syndrome has no cure. Today, the best that can be hoped for is lifetime remission. ES is considered to be an "orphaned" disease, as almost no research has been done. The reason for this is that there are so few people with ES that it is not fiscally responsible for drug companies to do research into a treatment or cure.
We are the Evans Syndrome Community Network, a non-profit organization serving those who are affected by ES. Our mission is to provide a safe place for networking between individuals whose lives have been impacted by Evans Syndrome (ES); to make available scientific and educational material, online and in medical environments, fostering learning about ES among our Community and the general public. We will assist families affected by ES with travel, lodging, and medical expenses; collaborate with other organizations that share our vision, and fund autoimmune research to benefit our international Community.
Thank you for asking about Evans Syndrome. Together we will make a difference, standing shoulder to shoulder.