Front-line therapy in polycythemia vera and essential thrombocythemia

Tiziano Barbui, Maria Chiara Finazzi, Guido Finazzi
Blood Reviews 2012, 26 (5): 205-11
Because the current therapy in polycythemia vera (PV) and essential thrombocythemia (ET) is aimed at lowering the risk of thrombosis, the risk classification system in these disorders is shaped according to thrombotic risk. Patients with either PV or ET can be stratified in a "high-risk" or "low-risk" category according to their age and previous history of thrombosis. Whether novel risk factors such as leukocytosis and JAK2 mutation may be included in the prognostic stratification requires confirmation in prospective future clinical studies. The identification and appropriate management of cardiovascular risk factors and the promotion of a healthy lifestyle in chronic myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN), as in the general population, should be considered a cornerstone of vascular prevention. Blood hyperviscosity in PV is a major cause of vascular disturbances which severely impact on morbidity and mortality. An aggressive target of hematocrit lower than 45% in males and 42% in females has been advised by the European LeukemiaNet (ELN) group, although no convincing evidence of this recommendation is currently available. The efficacy and safety of low-dose aspirin (100mg daily) in PV has been assessed in the European Collaboration on Low-dose Aspirin in Polycythemia (ECLAP) double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial. Translating evidence from the positive results of ECLAP to ET may be questionable. The most commonly used front-line therapy drugs for the treatment of high-risk PV and ET patients include hydroxyurea and alpha-interferon at any age while anagrelide is recommended as second line-therapy in resistant and intolerant ET patients. Busulphan is a front-line therapy in the elderly. By definition, children with ET are a population with low vascular risk unless a major thrombotic or hemorrhagic event has occurred. ELN recommends to prescribe cytoreductive drugs in children as a last resort. No results of clinical trials with JAK-2 inhibitor drugs in PV and ET are so far available.

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