Polycythemia Vera

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Abstract

Polycythemia vera (PV) is the most common myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN), the ultimate phenotype of the JAK2 V1617F mutation, the MPN with the highest incidence of thromboembolic complications, which usually occur early in the course of the disease, and the only MPN in which erythrocytosis occurs. The classical presentation of PV is characterized by erythrocytosis, leukocytosis, and thrombocytosis, often with splenomegaly and occasionally with myelofibrosis, but it can also present as isolated erythrocytosis with or without splenomegaly, isolated thrombocytosis or isolated leukocytosis, or any combination of these. When PV is present, the peripheral blood hematocrit (or hemoglobin) determination will not accurately represent the actual volume of red cells in the body, because in PV, in contrast to other disorders causing erythrocytosis, when the red cell mass increases, the plasma volume usually increases. In fact, unless the hematocrit is greater than 59%, true erythrocytosis cannot be distinguished from pseudoerythrocytosis due to plasma volume contraction. Usually, the presence of splenomegaly or leukocytosis or thrombocytosis establishes the diagnosis. However, when a patient presents with isolated thrombocytosis and a positive JAK2 V617F assay, particularly a young woman, the possibility of PV must always be considered because of plasma volume expansion. The WHO PV diagnostic guidelines are not helpful in this situation, since the hematocrit is invariably normal and a bone marrow examination will not distinguish ET from PV. Only a direct measurement of both the red cell mass and plasma volume can establish the correct diagnosis. In managing a PV patient, it is important to remember that PV is an indolent disorder in which life span is usually measured in decades, even when myelofibrosis is present, that chemotherapy is futile in eradicating the disease but does increase the incidence of acute leukemia and that hydroxyurea is not safe in this regard nor is it antithrombotic. Phlebotomy to a sex-specific normal hematocrit is the cornerstone of therapy and there now exist safe remedies for controlling leukocytosis, thrombocytosis, and extramedullary hematopoiesis and symptoms due to inflammatory cytokines when this is necessary.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number12
JournalCurrent Treatment Options in Oncology
Volume19
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018

Keywords

  • Diagnosis
  • JAK2 V617F
  • Management
  • Natural history
  • Polycythemia vera

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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