Diagnosis, pathogenesis and treatment of the myeloproliferative disorders essential thrombocythemia, polycythemia vera and essential megakaryocytic granulocytic metaplasia and myelofibrosis

J J Michiels, J Kutti, P Stark, M Bazzan, L Gugliotta, R Marchioli, M Griesshammer, P J van Genderen, J Brière, J J Kiladjian, T Barbui, G Finazzi, N I Berlin, T C Pearson, A C Green, S M Fruchtmann, R T Silver, E Hansmann, A Wehmeier, E Lengfelder, R Landolfi, H M Kvasnicka, H Hasselbalch, F Cervantes, J Thiele
Netherlands Journal of Medicine 1999, 54 (2): 46-62
According to strict clinical, hematological and morphological criteria, the Philadelphia (Ph) chromosome negative chronic myeloproliferative disorders essential thrombocythemia (ET), polycythemia vera (PV), and agnogenic myeloid (megakaryocytic/granulocytic) metaplasia (AMM) or idiopathic myelofibrosis (IMF) are three distinct disease entities with regard to clinical manifestations, natural history and outcome in terms of life expectancy. As clonality studies have clearly demonstrated that fibroblast proliferation in AMM, as well as in many other conditions such as advanced stages of Ph(+)-essential thrombocythemia, Ph(+)-granulocytic leukemia, and Ph(-)-polycythemia vera, is polyclonal indicating that myelofibrosis is secondary to the megakaryocytic granulocytic metaplasia in these various conditions, AMM is illogically labeled as IMF. As abnormal megakaryocytic granulocytic metaplasia is the essential feature preceding the early prefibrotic stage of AMM, the term essential megakaryocytic granulocytic metaplasia (EMGM) can readily be used to characterize this condition more appropriately at the biological level. Clinical, hematological and morphological characteristics, in particular megakaryocytopoiesis and bone marrow cellularity, reveal diagnostic features, which enable a clear-cut distinction between ET, PV and EMGM or classical IMF. The characteristic increase and clustering of enlarged megakaryocytes with mature cytoplasm and multilobulated nuclei and their tendency to cluster in a normal or only slightly increased cellular bone marrow represent the hallmark of ET. The characteristic increase and clustering of enlarged mature and pleiomorphic megakaryocytes with multilobulated nuclei and proliferation of erythropoiesis in a moderate to marked hypercellular bone marrow with hyperplasia of dilated sinuses are the specific diagnostic features of untreated PV. EMGM, including the early prefibrotic stages as well as the various myelofibrotic stages of classical IMF appear to be a distinct neoplastic dual proliferation of abnormal megakaryopoiesis and granulopoiesis. The histopathology of the bone marrow in prefibrotic EMGM and in classical IMF is dominated by atypical, enlarged and immature megakaryocytes with cloud-like immature nuclei, which are not seen in ET and PV at diagnosis and during follow-up. Myelofibrosis in ET, PV and EMGM is graded into: no reticulin fibrosis (MF0), early reticulin fibrosis (MF1), advanced reticulin sclerosis with minor or moderate collagen fibrosis (MF2) and advanced collagen fibrosis with osteosclerosis (MF3). Myelofibrosis is not a feature of ET at diagnosis and during long-term follow-up. Myelofibrosis may be present in a minority of PV-patients at diagnosis and usually becomes apparent during long-term follow-up in the majority of PV-patients. Myelofibrosis secondary to the abnormal megakaryocytic and granulocytic myeloproliferation constitutes a prominent feature in the majority of EMGM/IMF at time of diagnosis and usually progresses more or less rapidly during the natural history of the disease. Life expectancy is normal in ET, normal during the 1st ten years and compromised during the 2nd ten years follow-up in PV, but significantly shortened in the prefibrotic stage of EMGM as well as in the various myelosclerotic stages of classical IMF. First line treatment options in prospective randomized clinical trials of newly diagnosed MPD-patients are control of platelet function with low-dose aspirin versus reduction of platelet count with anagrelide, interferon or hydroxyurea in ET; control of platelet and erythrocyte counts by interferon alone versus bloodletting plus hydroxyurea on indication in PV; interferon versus no treatment in the early stages of EMGM; a wait and see strategy in the fibrotic stages of EMGM or classical IMF with favorable prognostic factors, and bone marrow transplantation in classical IMF with poor prognostic factors at presentation or during short-term follow-up.

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