Introduction: Stroke is a severe complication of sickle cell anemia (SCA), with devastating sequelae. Transcranial Doppler (TCD) ultrasonography predicts stroke risk, but implementing TCD screening with suitable treatment for primary stroke prevention in low-resource environments remains challenging. SPHERE (NCT03948867) is a prospective phase 2 open-label hydroxyurea trial for SCA in Tanzania. Methods: After formal training and certification, local personnel screened children 2–16 years old; those with conditional (170–199 cm/s) or abnormal (≥200 cm/s) time-averaged mean velocities (TAMVs) received hydroxyurea at 20 mg/kg/day with dose escalation to maximum tolerated dose (MTD). The primary study endpoint is change in TAMV after 12 months of hydroxyurea; secondary endpoints include SCA-related clinical events, splenic volume and function, renal function, infections, hydroxyurea pharmacokinetics, and genetic modifiers. Results: Between April 2019 and April 2020, 202 children (average 6.8 ± 3.5 years, 53% female) enrolled and underwent TCD screening; 196 were deemed eligible by DNA testing. Most had numerous previous hospitalizations and transfusions, with low baseline hemoglobin (7.7 ± 1.1 g/dL) and %HbF (9.3 ± 5.4%). Palpable splenomegaly was present at enrollment in 49 (25%); average sonographic splenic volume was 103 mL (range 8–1,045 mL). TCD screening identified 22% conditional and 2% abnormal velocities, with hydroxyurea treatment initiated in 96% (45/47) eligible children. Conclusion: SPHERE has built local capacity with high-quality research infrastructure and TCD screening for SCA in Tanzania. Fully enrolled participants have a high prevalence of elevated baseline TCD velocities and splenomegaly. SPHERE will prospectively determine the benefits of hydroxyurea at MTD for primary stroke prevention, anticipating expanded access to hydroxyurea treatment across Tanzania.

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