Dysregulated iron metabolism in polycythemia vera: etiology and consequences

Leukemia. 2018 Oct;32(10):2105-2116. doi: 10.1038/s41375-018-0207-9. Epub 2018 Jul 24.


Polycythemia vera (PV) is a chronic myeloproliferative neoplasm. Virtually all PV patients are iron deficient at presentation and/or during the course of their disease. The co-existence of iron deficiency and polycythemia presents a physiological disconnect. Hepcidin, the master regulator of iron metabolism, is regulated by circulating iron levels, erythroblast secretion of erythroferrone, and inflammation. Both decreased circulating iron and increased erythroferrone levels, which occur as a consequence of erythroid hyperplasia in PV, are anticipated to suppress hepcidin and enable recovery from iron deficiency. Inflammation which accompanies PV is likely to counteract hepcidin suppression, but the relatively low serum ferritin levels observed suggest that inflammation is not a major contributor to the dysregulated iron metabolism. Furthermore, potential defects in iron absorption, aberrant hypoxia sensing and signaling, and frequency of bleeding to account for iron deficiency in PV patients have not been fully elucidated. Insufficiently suppressed hepcidin given the degree of iron deficiency in PV patients strongly suggests that disordered iron metabolism is an important component of the pathobiology of PV. Normalization of hematocrit levels using therapeutic phlebotomy is the most common approach for reducing the incidence of thrombotic complications, a therapy which exacerbates iron deficiency, contributing to a variety of non-hematological symptoms. The use of cytoreductive therapy in high-risk PV patients frequently works more effectively to reverse PV-associated symptoms in iron-deficient relative to iron-replete patients. Lastly, differences in iron-related parameters between PV patients and mice with JAK2 V617F and JAK2 exon 12 mutations suggest that specific regions in JAK2 may influence iron metabolism by nuanced changes of erythropoietin receptor signaling. In this review, we comprehensively discuss the clinical consequences of iron deficiency in PV, provide a framework for understanding the potential dysregulation of iron metabolism, and present a rationale for additional therapeutic options for iron-deficient PV patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / etiology*
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Myeloproliferative Disorders / metabolism
  • Polycythemia Vera / complications*
  • Polycythemia Vera / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Thrombosis / metabolism


  • Iron