Polycythemia vera (PV) is a type of blood cancer known as a myeloproliferative neoplasm. It involves the abnormal development and function of bone marrow cells that produce blood cells, and leads to the overproduction of red blood cells. White blood cells and platelets may also be overproduced.
Patients with severe PV experience significant symptoms characterized by fatigue, itching, night sweats, bone pain, fever, and undesired weight loss that contribute to a poor quality of life. With the FDA’s approval in 2014, Jakafi®(ruxolitinib) became the first drug to successfully manage many symptoms of this disease, and may be replacing phlebotomy and hydroxyurea as the first line of treatment in the near future.
However, Jakafi is not a cure for PV, and in rare cases PV can progress to myelofibrosis (scarring of the bone marrow) or acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Future strategies to improve treatment for PV require patient evaluation through clinical trials. Participation in a clinical trial may offer patients access to better treatments and advance the existing knowledge about treatment of this cancer. Patients who are interested in participating in a clinical trial should discuss the risks and benefits of clinical trials with their physician.
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