The PVSG was organized in 1967 to establish effective diagnostic criteria for polycythemia vera, to study the natural history of the disease and to define the optimal treatment. Although polycythemia vera and the other myeloproliferative diseases are relatively uncommon, the PVSG was able to accumulate well over 1,000 patients with these various disorders and to study them according to a total of 15 different protocols. PVSG-01, a long-term randomized controlled study of phlebotomy alone compared with the myelosuppressive agents, 32P or chlorambucil supplemented by phlebotomy, continues to receive follow-up data on 93% of surviving patients 18 years after initiation of the study. During its lifetime, PVSG has developed a widely accepted and highly effective set of criteria for the specific diagnosis of polycythemia vera as well as useful criteria for the diagnosis of essential thrombocythemia. It has gathered an enormous volume of data on the natural history of the myeloproliferative diseases and in particular on the nature of the prevalent complications, such as thrombotic events and hematologic and nonhematologic malignancies. With respect to the final question, the optimal treatment for polycythemia vera, it is apparent that the expectation of a single optimal therapy that would apply to all patients at all ages and stages of the disease was naive. Nevertheless considerable progress has been made. Moreover, the group has defined more precisely than ever before the nature of the complications of the disease and the association of the risks of specific complications with specific forms of therapy. It thus has made it possible to pose the next series of therapeutic questions that must be addressed in this disorder with a greater degree of sophistication than was previously possible.