The efficacy and safety of continued hydroxycarbamide therapy versus switching to ruxolitinib in patients with polycythaemia vera: a randomized, double-blind, double-dummy, symptom study (RELIEF)

Br J Haematol. 2017 Jan;176(1):76-85. doi: 10.1111/bjh.14382. Epub 2016 Nov 8.


The randomized, double-blind, double-dummy, phase 3b RELIEF trial evaluated polycythaemia vera (PV)-related symptoms in patients who were well controlled with a stable dose of hydroxycarbamide (also termed hydroxyurea) but reported PV-related symptoms. Patients were randomized 1:1 to ruxolitinib 10 mg BID (n = 54) or hydroxycarbamide (prerandomization dose/schedule; n = 56); crossover to ruxolitinib was permitted after Week 16. The primary endpoint, ≥50% improvement from baseline in myeloproliferative neoplasm -symptom assessment form total symptom score cytokine symptom cluster (TSS-C; sum of tiredness, itching, muscle aches, night sweats, and sweats while awake) at Week 16, was achieved by 43·4% vs. 29·6% of ruxolitinib- and hydroxycarbamide-treated patients, respectively (odds ratio, 1·82; 95% confidence interval, 0·82-4·04; P = 0·139). The primary endpoint was achieved by 34% of a subgroup who maintained their hydroxycarbamide dose from baseline to Weeks 13-16. In a post hoc analysis, the primary endpoint was achieved by more patients with stable screening-to-baseline TSS-C scores (ratio ≤ 2) receiving ruxolitinib than hydroxycarbamide (47·4% vs. 25·0%; P = 0·0346). Ruxolitinib treatment after unblinding was associated with continued symptom score improvements. Adverse events were primarily grades 1/2 with no unexpected safety signals. Ruxolitinib was associated with a nonsignificant trend towards improved PV-related symptoms versus hydroxycarbamide, although an unexpectedly large proportion of patients who maintained their hydroxycarbamide dose reported symptom improvement.

Keywords: Janus kinase; hydroxycarbamide; polycythaemia vera; quality of life; signs and symptoms.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Substitution*
  • Fatigue
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydroxyurea / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polycythemia Vera / drug therapy*
  • Pyrazoles / therapeutic use*
  • Quality of Life
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • INCB018424
  • Pyrazoles
  • Hydroxyurea