COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE
RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL

Treatment of polycythemia vera: use of 32P alone or in combination with maintenance therapy using hydroxyurea in 461 patients greater than 65 years of age. The French Polycythemia Study Group

Y Najean, J D Rain
Blood 1997 April 1, 89 (7): 2319-27
9116275
Despite myelosuppression, polycythemic (PV) patients greater than 65 years of age have a high risk of vascular complications, and the leukemic risk exceeds 15% after 12 years. Is the addition of low-dose maintenance treatment with hydroxyurea (HU) after radiophosphorus (32P) myelosuppression able to decrease these complications? Since the end of 1979, 461 patients were randomized to receive (or not) low-dose HU (5 to 10 mg/kg/d), after the first 32P-induced remission, and were observed until death or June 1996. Maintenance treatment very significantly prolonged the duration of 32P-induced remissions and reduced the annual mean dose received to one-third. However, despite this maintenance, 25% of the patients had an excessive platelet count and the rate of serious vascular complications was not decreased, except in the most severe cases with short-term relapse of polycythemia. Furthermore, the leukemia rate was significantly increased beyond 8 years and a significant excess of carcinomas was also observed. The continuous use of HU did not decrease the risk of progression to myelofibrosis (incidence of 20% after 15 years). Life expectancy was shorter (a median of 9.3 years v 10.9 years with 32P alone), except in the most severe cases (initial 32P-induced remission lasting <2 years) in which maintenance treatment moderately prolonged the survival by reducing the vascular risk. In most cases of PV, in which the duration of the first 32P-induced remission exceeded 2 years, the introduction of HU maintenance did not reduce the vascular risk. Although it considerably decreased the mean dose of 32P received, HU maintenance therapy significantly increased the leukemia and cancer risks and reduced the mean life expectancy by 15%. However, in cases with more rapid recurrence, the introduction of maintenance treatment reduced the vascular risks and moderately prolonged survival. The use of HU as a maintenance therapy is therefore only justified in this situation.

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