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The 2001 World Health Organization and updated European clinical and pathological criteria for the diagnosis, classification, and staging of the Philadelphia chromosome-negative chronic myeloproliferative disorders.

The clinical criteria according to the Polycythemia Vera Study Group (PVSG) do not distinguish between essential thrombocythemia (ET), thrombocythemia associated with early-stage polycythemia vera (PV) and prefibrotic chronic idiopathic myelofibrosis (CIMF). The criteria only classify the advanced stage of PV with increased red cell mass. The classification of myeloproliferative disorders (MPDs), proposed by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2001, is a compromise of the clinical PVSG and WHO bone marrow criteria, and excludes early stages of ET and PV. The updated European clinical and pathological criteria combine the WHO bone marrow criteria with established and new clinical, laboratory, biological, and molecular MPD markers. This allows clinicians and pathologists to diagnose early-stage MPD and to differentiate ET, PV, and prefibrotic chronic idiopathic myelofibrosis (CIMF). Depending on laboratory tests and diagnostic criteria used, the population of the MPD patients defined as ET, PV, and CIMF are heterogeneous at the clinical, laboratory, and biological and pathological levels. The recent discovery of the JAK2 V617F mutation, which is the cause of a distinct trilinear MPD in its manifold clinical manifestations during long-term follow-up, increases the specificity of a positive JAK2 V617F polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for the diagnosis of MPD (near 100%), but only half of the ET and CIMF patients according to the PVSG (sensitivity 50%) and the majority of PV patients (sensitivity 95%) are JAK2 V617F positive. A comparison of the laboratory features of JAK2 V617-positive and JAK2 wild-type ET patients clearly showed that JAK2 V617-positive ET is characterized by higher values for hemoglobin, hematocrit, and neutrophil counts; lower values for serum erythropoietin (EPO) levels, serum ferritin, and mean corpuscular volume; and by increased cellularity of the bone marrow in biopsy material. This indicates that JAK2 V617-positive ET patients, diagnosed according to the PVSG criteria, represent a "forme fruste of PV" consistent with early PV mimicking ET (JAK2 V617F trilinear MPD). In contrast, the JAK2 wild-type ET patients had significantly higher platelet counts and usually had a clinical picture of ET with normal serum EPO levels, PRV-1 expression, and leukocyte alkaline phosphatase score, and a typical WHO ET bone marrow picture. The clinical and pathological data on JAK2 V617F-positive MPD patients suggest that the JAK2 V617F mutation defines one disease entity with several sequential steps of ET, PV, and secondary myelofibrosis during long-term follow-up, and that the wild-type JAK2 MPDs may represent another distinct entity with a related but different molecular etiology. MPD-specific markers such as serum EPO, endogenous erythroid colony formation (EEC), and JAK2 V617F have high specificities, but the sensitivities are not high enough to detect the early stages of the MPDs, ET, PV, and prefibrotic CIMF. Bone marrow histopathology in addition to clinical, laboratory, biological, and molecular markers, including the JAK2 V617 PCR test, serum EPO, PRV-1, EEC, LAP score, peripheral blood parameters, and spleen size on echogram will detect the early stages of MPD and allows diagnostic differentiation of the three primary MPDs (ET, PV, and CIMF) in both JAK2 V617F-positive and JAK2 wild-type MPD patients.

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