What might an increase in myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN) symptoms indicate? MPN specialist Dr. Naveen Pemmaraju discusses possible reasons for an increase in symptoms and shares advice for seeking care when experiencing common issues.
Dr. Naveen Pemmaraju is Director of the Blastic Plasmacytoid Dendritic Cell Neoplasm (BPDCN) Program in the Department of Leukemia at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Learn more about Dr. Pemmaraju.
What might an increase in symptoms mean? Does it mean that the disease is progressing or that maybe it’s time to change therapies?
Yeah, possibly. So, with all this objective evidence, there are different buckets of disease progression. And some of them are objective and obvious, rising spleen, increasing blasts, or leukemia cells in the peripheral blood. The start of transfusion dependency for either anemia or platelets that weren’t there before. Sometimes, there are obvious things that you can point to, but there are a couple of scenarios where it’s not as obvious. You just named one. One is increasing symptom burden profile. You see, sometimes you have to think about, is it the sequela of the treatment itself or is it disease progression?
I’ll give an example. If you start on an Interferon product and the dose is too high, you may be feeling not so great from the interferon. But maybe in that case, a simple dose reduction was the answer, because then you’re still getting the anti-disease activity, less side effects and all that. So, I’ll answer your question by saying possibly, but it can’t be the whole story. So, increasing symptoms is a harbinger, it’s a red flag.
In the clinic, it means pause. Workup, is this a subject of the treatment itself? Is it because the disease is progressing? Do we need to do a restaging and workup, whether that means a bone marrow biopsy, whatever that means? Or again, let’s put that other in there. What about the other comorbidities? Do you have class one heart failure, that’s now class three and you’re retaining fluid? And that’s why you’re short of breath and you actually need an echo and a cardiologist and an evaluation of your diuresis. So, I think that’s important, but the key is don’t blow it off, right? So, increasing symptom in MPN is telling you something isn’t right, and we need to check it out.
Right, and for the patient, tell your healthcare team about it.
Communicate always. I think what we see is people are so proper and so compassionate and so kind and collegial, and that’s beautiful. But actually in the MPNs and all these rare blood cancers where so little is known and so little is obvious, communication is the key.