Hydroxyurea is a ribonucleotide reductase inhibitor used to treat certain myeloproliferative disorders and sickle cell anemia. By inhibiting DNA synthesis in mitotically-active tissue, hydroxyurea induces myelosuppression and decreases circulating tumor load in chronic myelogenous leukemia and other myelodysplastic disease. It is also used as an adjunct to radiation therapy in squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck.
Although the mechanism underlying its efficacy in preventing sickle cell pain crises is not fully understood, myelosuppression-induced reversion to more primitive erythroid progenitors may result in a shift from beta-globin production to fetal hemoglobin production, decreasing the probability of hemoglobin aggregation and RBC sickling during hypoxia.
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