Aspirin in polycythemia vera and essential thrombocythemia: current facts and perspectives

R Landolfi, C Patrono
Leukemia & Lymphoma 1996, 22 Suppl 1: 83-6
The role of aspirin in the antithrombotic strategy of patients with polycythemia vera (PV) and essential thrombocythemia (ET) is highly controversial. Long considered unsafe on the basis of a single clinical trial testing very high doses in PV patients, aspirin is being increasingly used at lower dosage. The rationale for the use of aspirin in patients with PV and ET is provided by the efficacy of this agent in the treatment of microcirculatory disturbances of thrombocythemic states associated with myeloproliferative disorders and by recent evidence that asymptomatic PV and ET patients have persistently increased thromboxane (TX) A2-biosynthesis. This increase, which most likely reflects enhanced platelet activation in vivo, is independent of the platelet mass and blood viscosity and largely supressed by a short term low-dose aspirin regimen (50 mg/day for 7 days). Since enhanced TXA2 biosynthesis may play a role in transducing the increased thrombotic risk associated with PV and ET, long-term low-dose aspirin administration has been proposed as a possible antithombotic strategy in these subjects. The safety of this treatment in PV patients has been recently reassessed by the Gruppo Italiano per lo Studio della Policitemia Vera (GISP) which has followed for over one year 112 patients randomized to receive 40 mg/day aspirin or placebo. In the same study, serum TXB2 measurements provided evidence that the low-dose aspirin regimen tested was fully effective in inhibiting platelet cyclooxygenase activity. On this basis, a large scale trial aimed at assessing the antithrombotic efficacy of this approach is currently being organized. In patients with ET both the minimal aspirin dose required for complete inhibition of platelet cyclooxygenase and the safety of long-term aspirin administration need to be established prior to extensive clinical evaluation of this strategy.

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