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2366 GBT021601 Increases Hemoglobin and Improves Red Blood Cell Deformability without Rebound Hyperviscosity upon Drug Clearance in a Sickle Mouse Model

Program: Oral and Poster Abstracts
Session: 113. Hemoglobinopathies, Excluding Thalassemia: Basic and Translational: Poster II
Hematology Disease Topics & Pathways:
Research, Sickle Cell Disease, Non-Biological therapies, Hemoglobinopathies, Diseases, Therapies, Study Population, Animal model
Sunday, December 11, 2022, 6:00 PM-8:00 PM

Celeste K. Kanne, MS1*, Christina Liu1*, Britney N. Hernandez1*, Erica N. Evans1, Mira P. Pochron, PhD2*, Kobina Dufu, PhD2* and Vivien A. Sheehan, MD, PhD1

1Aflac Blood and Cancer Center, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Department of Pediatrics, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA
2Global Blood Therapeutics, South San Francisco, CA

Background: Whole-blood viscosity and red cell deformability are markedly abnormal in sickle cell disease (SCD) due to sickling of red blood cells (RBCs). Increased whole-blood viscosity is a risk factor for vaso-occlusive crisis (VOC), avascular necrosis, and proliferative retinopathy. Blood viscosity is strongly impacted by hemoglobin (Hb) levels and RBC deformability. GBT021601 is a potent next-generation sickle hemoglobin (HbS) polymerization inhibitor, with anti-sickling properties, that increases the oxygen affinity of Hb. In preclinical studies, treatment with GBT021601 achieved higher levels of Hb than the US Food and Drug Administration–approved first-generation compound voxelotor, raising concern that this rise in Hb would substantially increase whole-blood viscosity and impose a VOC risk after treatment cessation.

Objective: To investigate a potential rebound hyperviscosity effect from GBT021601 cessation in a murine model of SCD by determining the effect on whole-blood viscosity and on RBC deformability under a range of oxygen concentrations using oxygen gradient ektacytometry.

Methods: Nine-week-old Townes HbSS mice were fed chows containing 0.2% GBT021601 for 5 weeks, then transitioned to control chow. Whole blood was collected in an EDTA tube. All tests were conducted within 4 hours of collection. Using an Element HT5 hematology analyzer (Heska), complete blood count was obtained from mice while on GBT021601 (day 0) and then on days 1, 3, and 5 after transition to control chow. Blood viscosity was measured with a cone/plate viscometer (AMETEK Brookfield) at 37 °C at shear rates of 45 s–1 and 225 s–1. Hematocrit to viscosity ratio (HVR) was calculated to determine RBC oxygen-carrying capacity. RBC deformability was measured by oxygen gradient ektacytometry (Lorrca, RR Mechatronics).

Results: Treatment with GBT021601 significantly increased Hb from 8.0 to 12.9 g/dL (P<0.0001) without increasing HVR. Compared with previous studies with the voxelotor analog GBT1118, Hb dropped off more slowly with GBT021601 treatment; this allowed for the ideal assessment of whole-blood viscosity and HVR when the drug had cleared, and HbS was no longer modified, despite elevated Hb levels. HVR at both 45 s–1 and 225 s–1 showed no significant change with drug clearance. GBT021601 treatment also improved RBC deformability, as indicated by a higher elongation index (EI) under both normoxic (EImax, P<0.001) and hypoxic (EImin, P<0.0001) conditions. Point of sickling (PoS) was also reduced (P<0.0001), indicating that treated RBCs tolerated lower oxygen concentrations before sickling. When the drug was withdrawn, PoS and EImin returned to baseline levels, whereas EImax remained elevated until day 5 off treatment. Hb also remained elevated until day 5 off treatment, despite the return to baseline levels of the EImin, PoS, and p50 (partial oxygen pressure at which Hb is 50% saturated with oxygen), indicating drug clearance.

Conclusions: In response to GBT021601, sickle cell mice showed a robust increase in Hb, comparable to that of a HbAS mouse, as well as a marked improvement in PoS and RBC deformability. When normalized to HVR, there was no significant difference in blood viscosity during treatment and after cessation of treatment. This finding suggests that oxygen-carrying capacity is not impaired and provides no indication for rebound hyperviscosity with drug clearance. Moreover, the observation that EImax remained elevated until 5 days after drug cessation suggests that some residual rheological improvement occurred in the RBC population that did not dissipate when the drug was cleared. In vitro addition of GBT021601 (and other related compounds) to blood rapidly increases the EImin and reduces the PoS of RBCs but does not alter the EImax. In contrast, an increase in the EImax of RBCs has been consistently observed with GBT021601 treatment in vivo, including in early clinical studies in patients with SCD. The precise mechanism by which this benefit is obtained requires further study.

Funding: Global Blood Therapeutics.

Disclosures: Kanne: Global Blood Therapeutics: Research Funding. Liu: Global Blood Therapeutics: Research Funding. Hernandez: Global Blood Therapeutics: Research Funding. Evans: Global Blood Therapeutics: Research Funding. Pochron: Global Blood Therapeutics: Current Employment, Current equity holder in publicly-traded company. Dufu: Global Blood Therapeutics: Current Employment, Current equity holder in publicly-traded company. Sheehan: Global Blood Therapeutics: Research Funding.

*signifies non-member of ASH