, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 13-18,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 31 Mar 2007

The treatment of polycythaemia vera: an update in the JAK2 era

Abstract

The clinical course of polycythaemia vera is marked by a high incidence of thrombotic complications, which represent the main cause of morbidity and mortality. Major predictors of vascular events are increasing age and previous thrombosis. Myelosuppressive drugs can reduce the rate of thrombosis, but there is concern that their use raises the risk of transformation into acute leukaemia. To tackle this dilemma, a risk-oriented management strategy is recommended. Low-risk patients should be treated with phlebotomy and low-dose aspirin. Cytotoxic therapy is indicated in high-risk patients, with the drug of choice being hydroxyurea because its leukaemogenicity is low. The recent discovery of JAK2 V617F mutation in the vast majority of polycythaemia vera patients opens new avenues for the treatment of this disease. Novel therapeutic options theoretically devoid of leukaemic risk, such as alpha-interferon and imatinib, affect JAK2 expression in some patients. Nevertheless, these drugs require further clinical experience and, for the time being, should be reserved for selected cases.