Normal life expectancy for polycythaemia vera patients is possible

The October edition of ‘Leukemia’ features a letter to the editor about life expectancy for polycythaemia vera (PV) patients.

The US study noted that, while historically, thrombosis has been the major contributor to early mortality and the leading cause of death in PV, vigilant phlebotomy to a target hematocrit, low dose aspirin, and myelosuppressive therapy have all reduced fatal cardiovascular events and major thromboses.

The study then considered how much a diagnosis of PV alters life expectancy of patients receiving available treatment, and whether a normal life expectancy is possible.

Findings were that treatment with both hydroxyurea and interferon were associated with improved survival. This was independent of age, thrombosis history, sex, and white blood count. However the study also found that early diagnosis and treatment of PV with effective therapies, such as interferon, may prevent or delay disease progression.  ‘Because PV progression to MF or AML is among the leading causes of late morbidity and mortality, it may be time to reconsider and improve upon PV risk assessment and stratification.’

The letter concludes that while this large population-based and single-centre study shows that PV survival remains shortened, encouragingly, normal life expectancy for PV patients is possible with available care. The discrepancy between survival nationally and at a specialized centre, highlights the need for greater community outreach and education regarding treatment standards. The authors hope this study motivates the development of new PV risk stratification and treatment recommendations that focus not only on hematologic control and reducing thromboses, but also on preventing progression, improving overall survival, and restoring normal life expectancy.

The full letter is available HERE.

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