Symptomatic Profiles of Patients With Polycythemia Vera: Implications of Inadequately Controlled Disease

J Clin Oncol. 2016 Jan 10;34(2):151-9. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2015.62.9337. Epub 2015 Nov 23.


Purpose: Polycythemia vera (PV) is a myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN) associated with disabling symptoms and a heightened risk of life-threatening complications. Recent studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of JAK inhibitor therapy in patients with PV patients who have a history of prior hydroxyurea (HU) use (including resistance or intolerance), phlebotomy requirements, and palpable splenomegaly. We aimed to determine how these features contribute alone and in aggregate to the PV symptom burden.

Patients and methods: Through prospective evaluation of 1,334 patients with PV who had characterized symptom burden, we assessed patient demographics, laboratory data, and the presence of splenomegaly by disease feature (ie, known HU use, known phlebotomy requirements, splenomegaly).

Results: The presence of each feature in itself is associated with a moderately high symptom burden (MPN symptom assessment form [SAF] total symptom score [TSS] range, 27.7 to 29.2) that persists independent of PV risk category. In addition, symptoms incrementally increase in severity with the addition of other features. Patients with PV who had all three features (PV-HUPS) faced the highest total score (MPN-SAF TSS, 32.5) but had similar individual symptom scores to patients with known HU use (PV-HU), known phlebotomy (PV-P), and splenomegaly (PV-S).

Conclusion: The results of this study suggest that patients with PV who have any one of the features in question (known HU use, known phlebotomy, or splenomegaly) have significant PV-associated symptoms. Furthermore, it demonstrates that many PV symptoms remain severe independent of the number of features present.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Fatigue / etiology
  • Female
  • Fever / etiology
  • Humans
  • Hydroxyurea / administration & dosage
  • Hydroxyurea / adverse effects*
  • Janus Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Janus Kinases / genetics
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / etiology
  • Palpation
  • Phlebotomy*
  • Polycythemia Vera / complications*
  • Polycythemia Vera / drug therapy*
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Pruritus / etiology
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Splenomegaly / etiology*
  • Sweating
  • Weight Loss


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Janus Kinases
  • Hydroxyurea