Experience with ruxolitinib in the treatment of polycythaemia vera.
Polycythaemia vera (PV) is a myeloproliferative neoplasm classically characterized by an erythrocytosis and is associated with a high risk of thromboembolic events, constitutional symptoms burden and risk of transformation to myelofibrosis and acute myeloid leukaemia. Therapy is directed at the haematocrit (HCT) to reduce the risk of thrombotic events and usually comprises low-dose aspirin and phlebotomy to maintain HCT at >45%. Frequently in addition, cytoreductive therapy is indicated in high-risk patients for normalizing haematological parameters to mitigate the occurrence of thromboembolic events. q
Unfortunately, there is no clear evidence that current therapies reduce the risk of transformation to myelofibrosis and for some a risk of a therapy related complication is unknown for example leukaemia due to hydroxycarbamide (HC). First-line therapy for treating PV remains HC or interferon, the latter most often in younger patients, especially those of childbearing age. However, therapy related intolerance or resistance is a common feature and results in limited treatment options for such patients. The discovery of the JAK2 V617F mutation and consequently targeted therapy with Janus kinase inhibitors, in particular ruxolitinib, has extended the spectrum of agents that can be used as second or third line in PV. The findings of the phase II trial RESPONSE and the preliminary data from RESPONSE 2 trial have identified a role for ruxolitinib in PV patients who are resistant or intolerant to HC. In this article, using clinical cases we demonstrate our experience with ruxolitinib highlighting the clinical benefits and limitations we encountered in clinical practice.