Expertise-based management in essential thrombocythemia and polycythemia vera

Guido Finazzi, Tiziano Barbui
Cancer Journal 2007, 13 (6): 372-6
The clinical courses of polycythemia vera (PV) and essential thrombocythemia (ET) are characterized by an increased incidence of thrombotic and hemorrhagic complications and an inherent tendency to progress into myelofibrosis or acute myeloid leukemia. Major predictors of vascular events are increasing age and previous thrombosis. Myelosuppressive drugs can reduce the rate of thromboses and hemorrhages, but there is concern that their use accelerates the rate of leukemic transformation. Thus, a risk-oriented management strategy is recommended. Low-risk patients with PV should be treated with phlebotomy and low-dose aspirin, whereas those with ET can be left untreated. Cytotoxic agents are recommended in high-risk patients and hydroxyurea is the drug of choice in most patients. Interferon-alpha (IFN-alpha) or anagrelide could be considered in selected young patients or as second-line therapy in those intolerant of hydroxyurea or with refractory disease. The recent identification of the JAK2 V617F mutation in a substantial proportion of patients with PV and ET raises the possibility of a molecularly targeted therapy.

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