Tag Archive for: Inrebic

Expert Perspective | Disease Modification in Polycythemia Vera

Expert Perspective | Disease Modification in Polycythemia Vera from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Is it possible to change the course of disease in polycythemia vera patients? MPN specialist and researcher Dr. Lucia Masarova shares an overview of the research in disease modification, discussing her work as the coauthor in an article entitled Moving Towards Disease Modification in Polycythemia Vera, recently published in the journal Blood.

Dr. Lucia Masarova is an MPN Specialist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Leukemia at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Learn more about Dr. Masarova

 

Related Programs:

Are There Predictors That an MPN May Be Progressing

Are There Predictors That an MPN May Be Progressing?

Myeloproliferative Neoplasm News and Research Updates

Myeloproliferative Neoplasm News and Research Updates

How Molecular Markers Affect MPN Treatment | Advances in Research

How Molecular Markers Affect MPN Treatment | Advances in Research


Transcript:

Katherine Banwell:

Dr. Masarova, you are a coauthor in an article entitled Moving Towards Disease Modification in Polycythemia Vera, which was recently published in the journal Blood. Can you share some of the highlights of the article and what it means for PV patients? 

Dr. Lucia Masarova:

Disease modification in polycythemia vera. I’m so excited finally being talking about this because we’ve been really, really, really so hungry for this term, although we still don’t know what it means.  

So, we group together with lots of experts in the myeloproliferative neoplasm field and try to brainstorm and put together, “What does it actually mean?” And to me, and to all of us, it was to offer our patients the normal or not-normal lifespan without the consequences of the disease that they face. Because we historically divided polycythemia vera into high-risk or low-risk disease based on the age or previous history of thrombosis or clotting complications.  

However, there is a huge area of patients that wouldn’t have either, and still suffer tremendously a bad quality of life, and ultimately also face the disease progression to myelofibrosis, which is the most actual complication of long-term polycythemia vera duration.  

So, the concept of disease modification would be to actually prevent the complications to even occur. To allow our patient to live free of having the fear of living with a thrombosis or clotting complication or ultimately progress into myelofibrosis. We have to learn how to get there. What are the relevant endpoints of tools for us to utilize to really understand? We have learned a lot from seeing what we call molecular remissions, or control of the JAK2 mutation with certain medications, for example, interferons or latest ruxolitinib (Jakafi), the JAK inhibition, where the decrease of the allele burden, which represents the disease, is correlated with better outcome.  

So, that is something that we have to be learning down the road with a longer follow-up. But that basically triggered us to focus on what can we do better? How do we prevent this from even happening rather than only controlling the historically main points of the disease which are presented by the blood counts symptoms and display? And where we are actually failing quite a lot of patients because despite them having a control count, they still don’t have a happy life, and lots of them suffer and complain.  

So, this is something to be learned, and this is opening the disease modification not only for polycythemia vera, but also for all patients with myeloproliferative neoplasms, which have a little bit of a different feeling in the whole myeloid malignancies field. Because it is a very long disease, and it could evolve and change, and only now we starting to understand what does actually happen there. Why some people could live for 30 years, and never face any consequences, and the others would progress very fast? 

So, disease modification would normally allow us to develop and learn more tools and better biomarkers, but also focus on drugs that are really needed to help with these long-term outcomes of our patients.  

Myeloproliferative Neoplasm News and Research Updates

Myeloproliferative Neoplasm News and Research Updates from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Dr. Lucia Masarova, a myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN) specialist and researcher, discusses the latest updates from a recent MPN Congress. Some of the highlights include new learnings in hematopoiesis, JAK inhibitor comparisons, interferon therapy, and the potential for combination treatments in the future.

Dr. Lucia Masarova is an MPN Specialist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Leukemia at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Learn more about Dr. Masarova.

See More From Thrive MPNs

 

Related Programs:

Are There Predictors That an MPN May Be Progressing

Are There Predictors That an MPN May Be Progressing?

Myeloproliferative Neoplasm News and Research Updates

Myeloproliferative Neoplasm News and Research Updates

Advances in Research | Emerging MPN Therapies on the Horizon

Advances in Research | Emerging MPN Therapies on the Horizon 


Transcript:

Katherine Banwell:

Dr. Masarova, you were in New York recently for the MPN congress. Can you share some highlights from that meeting? 

Dr. Lucia Masarova:

Yeah. Sure. That was a very interesting and very loaded conference full of experts and great data. I really liked the overall excellent update of all the therapies that currently exist in the MPN space, including polycythemia vera, essential thrombocythemia, myelofibrosis. So, really a broad breadth of JAK inhibitors, their current sequencing, combinations, interferon update. I very much like also the focus of the novel therapies, which actually talked about, for example, the development of the antibody against mutant calreticulin, PIM inhibitors, and a couple others. They are very promising in the space. 

There were also very, very relevant clinical data. I think I really, really enjoyed the radiation in hematopoiesis topic. It spurred lots of discussions in the room. And also, fantastic talks about clonal hematopoiesis and its role in patients with myeloproliferative neoplasms and cancers.  

Overall, very great data on artificial intelligence because that will be a very needed tool, but also a very worrisome tool, at this point, until you learn how to use it to help our patients. But that showed a very promising effect and ability for us to, for example, predict thrombosis risk in polycythemia vera patients or to distinguish patients with ET versus prefibrotic myelofibrosis, which is still subject to lots of basically subjective analysis from hematopathologist.  

And also, the poster section was quite striking and really excellent. You could walk around and see so many interesting data. The match and direct comparisons of JAK inhibitors, particularly the latest approved, momelotinib (Ojjaara), as it compared to safety data which do currently exist in fedratinib (Inrebic) or pacritinib (Vonjo). 

Katherine Banwell:

When it comes to MPN research and emerging treatment options, what are you excited about specifically? 

Dr. Lucia Masarova:

There is a lot of excitement in the field currently, and it really depends how we put these patients in, as I would call, boxes, but I don’t like the term. We have these less aggressive diseases, such as polycythemia vera and essential thrombocythemia.  

Where I’m really excited about the role of interferon, with the approval of ropeginterferon (Besremi), or ropeginterferon in United States as well as Europe, we have opened a door for learning how can we do better.  

It is approved for polycythemia vera patients. There are currently clinical trials running in essential thrombocythemia patients, within patients with prefibrotic myelofibrosis. That’s an agent that has an ability to go after the disease clone and hopefully, hopefully eradicate or prevent it. Especially, especially exciting in the terms of preventing it for progression.  

Then iron metabolize modifier, hepcidin mimetics, other agents impacting this. It’s very important we finally learn how iron plays the role in these patients and how we can actually improve. Very important area in helping patients requiring phlebotomies and hopefully, hopefully altering the whole disease outcome in the long-term. 

For myelofibrosis we live in an era of JAK inhibitors. We are so excited to have four currently approved and we’re looking forward to the combinations where we have now safer and less cytopenic agents that have a role in anemia or thrombocytopenia and hopefully will be able to be combined with others. 

So, we could even move the field more into other hematologic malignancies, where in myeloma we use five, six, seven, eight drugs. For myelofibrosis, we still have one. So, I think we have still a lot to do. 

And then non-JAK inhibitor combination. Non-JAK inhibitor, a compounds or mechanism of action really tailored to the disease pathogenesis. Calreticulin, excellent topic, which I’m saying maybe in couple years we will be really classifying myeloproliferative neoplasm calreticulin-mutated, but also JAK2-mutated, and we will not be calling them one because hopefully we will find a tool to eradicate calreticulin and to really be able to offer ultimate – what I call ultimate cure.  

So, that’ll be something really exciting to come and all of these investigators in MPN fields are so eager to see what – whether the preclinical data we have seen are going to stand in our patients. And that would be really fantastic.   

Choosing a Myelofibrosis Treatment Plan | Key Questions to Ask

Choosing a Myelofibrosis Treatment Plan | Key Questions to Ask from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

When considering therapy for myelofibrosis, where do you start? Dr. Lucia Masarova shares advice and key questions to ask your provider when making myelofibrosis treatment decisions.

Dr. Lucia Masarova is an MPN Specialist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Leukemia at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Learn more about Dr. Masarova.

See More from Evolve Myelofibrosis

Related Resources:

Myelofibrosis Therapies in Clinical Trials | BET Inhibitors

Myelofibrosis Therapies in Clinical Trials | BET Inhibitors

Is Stem Cell Transplant the Only Curative Option for Myelofibrosis?

Is Stem Cell Transplant the Only Curative Option for Myelofibrosis?

Thriving With an MPN: Advice for Setting Goals and Making Treatment Decisions

Myeloproliferative Neoplasm News and Research Updates

Transcript:

Katherine Banwell:

When considering treatment options, what key questions should patients ask about their proposed treatment plan? 

Dr. Lucia Masarova:

What’s the goal of my therapy? That is one of the most important things to know. Patients don’t even know how long they have to be on the medicines. What to do and how does it look when the medicine is still working? What do I need to be looking for in this medicine? And then what are we going to do if it fails? And what does it actually mean when it fails? What is the schedule? How burdensome the treatment is? How often do I have to come?  

How often and what do I have to pay? Because the financial burden we have to really, really face the truth. It is very, very, very significant and somebody living with this disease predicates. It’s something we cannot take lightly, and we really have to combine our efforts and help with that. There are fantastic patient support organizations, but is not well-known, and is still in the rare – in rarer field. So, there’s more effort that we do. 

When do I need more help? Where to be referred to more experts? What is the role of stem cell transplantations, if ever? So, those are really the key things.  

Where do I find reliable resources to learn about my treatment, to learn about the disease? How do I connect with people from the same community? It is a disease with a lower age in a lot of circumstances and really facing this disease in the 30s or 40s or 50s is a really challenging thing. Although we have more and more medications currently, we really do have now to start thinking about their durability, about the safety for long-term, about their assessments for not performing, and where do we place the ultimate cure for stem cell transplants?  

And how do we make it actually happen in more and more eligible patients? Because we have to face the truth. It is still not utilized to where it belongs. Patients are not being referred. 

Patients are not being transplanted. And they may change with novel therapies. But we have to really consider all of our tools to offer the longest life span and to prevent all the disease trouble that comes with living with MPNs.   

Katherine Banwell:

When it comes to clinical trials, where do they fit in in choosing treatment? 

Dr. Lucia Masarova:

For me, it’s number one., and always number one.  

That’s just the academic centers which are dedicated and focused on developing better and novel and up front and just tailored and customized drugs. But I know that the life is out there and it’s a little bit more challenging for everybody to deal with such a rare disease.  

I would definitely say any patient that does not respond to current therapy in terms of uncontrolled symptoms or spleen, or other concerns should be referred and evaluated for participation in clinical trials. It is the only way we could understand what is driving that this is not responding and how could we help the best?   

For patients with myelofibrosis, which is the most aggressive myeloproliferative neoplasm, I would definitely put it in. If they are not doing well on number  one, JAK inhibitor, whatever is being used, they should be highly encouraged to be referred to centers and evaluated for clinical trials. 

We have been developing as others and own strategies to potentiate the benefit and efficacy of the current treatments, as well as agents in what we call salvage or refractory setting.  

However, I cannot emphasize enough to really focus on the first track that providers choose for their patients and utilize it to the best ability to avoid frequent or quick switching. Because in a salvage or  refractory setting we cannot offer the same benefit we could offer upfront. We are pushing the disease, maybe being less responsive, maybe more refractory, if we don’t handle the medication we have currently on the table to the best ability.  

Those are excellent medications, fantastic drugs, but there are shortcomings in each and every one of them. And we could do better to really start thinking about what has happened with the medication, why is it failing the patient, and what else could we do? And that’s only possible in the clinical trial setting, especially in such a rare disease as myeloproliferative neoplasms are.   

Katherine Banwell:

Why is it important for patients to feel like they have a voice in their treatment options? 

Dr. Lucia Masarova:

Because it’s about the patients. I would say, as I always say to my patients, “Nobody’s a better advocate for you than you.” I really, really, really like working with patients. They are educated. They understand where to find resources. They’re not afraid to ask. That challenges all of my team and everybody to really be engaged. They know when to notify me. Not to be quiet when they need something. And really raise their voice when something doesn’t work.  

Patients know their bodies more than anybody can. And no data, no boxes, no books can ever tell me how it actually is. It’s not by chance we have two ears to listen and one mouth to talk.  

So, we have to really listen what the patient has to say and take all the abilities, the resources, the knowledge, the capabilities to really make the best thing for the patients, because it is ultimately and only about that.  

Understanding MPN Treatment Options | What’s Available for MF, PV, and ET?

Understanding MPN Treatment Options | What’s Available for MF, PV, and ET? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

How are myelofibrosis (MF), polycythemia vera (PV), and essential thrombocythemia (ET) treated? Dr. Raajit Rampal reviews the available therapies for each of the MPNs. 

Dr. Raajit Rampal is a hematologist-oncologist specializing in the treatment of myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs) and leukemia at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Learn more about Dr. Rampal.

 

Related Programs:

MPN Essential Testing | How Results Impact Care & Treatment Options

MPN Essential Testing | How Results Impact Care & Treatment Options

Thriving With an MPN: Advice for Setting Goals and Making Treatment Decisions

Thriving With an MPN | Advice for Setting Goals and Making Treatment Decisions

Understanding and Managing Common MPN Symptoms and Side Effects

Understanding and Managing Common MPN Symptoms and Side Effects


Transcript:

Katherine Banwell:

So, what are the types of treatments available for MPNs?  And let’s start with myelofibrosis or MF. 

Dr. Raajit Rampal:

If we had had this discussion five years ago, it would be pretty simple, and it would take a minute or two. And that’s completely changing and that’s amazing, and it’s good for all of our patients.  

Right now, for patients with MF, it depends on what the issue is. If the issue is symptoms or spleen, JAK inhibitors are our first line of therapy. Three approved JAK inhibitors are currently available, two on the first side ruxolitinib (Jakafi) and fedratinib (Inrebic). And pacritinib (Vonjo) can be used for patients with really low platelet counts.  

There is a fourth JAK inhibitor that we expect to be, hopefully, approved in June of this year, momelotinib. So, the landscape is about to complete broaden in terms of just JAK inhibitors. 

But beyond the JAK inhibitors themselves, there are a number of late stage clinical trials that are combining JAK inhibitors with agents that work through a different mechanism that don’t work through inhibition of the JAK pathway. So far, these drugs have all shown promise in early phase trials. Now, the definitive Phase III trials are being done. We have to wait and see what the data tells us. But if these are positive trials, this could completely alter the landscape of MPN. 

Katherine Banwell:

There’s also transplants available, right? 

Dr. Raajit Rampal:

Correct. Transplants for more advanced patients, which comes with some major risks. And so, that has to be thought of very carefully in terms of the risks and benefit. But it is a potentially curative strategy. 

Katherine Banwell:

Let’s turn to polycythemia vera or PV. What types of treatments are available? 

Dr. Raajit Rampal:

It’s really quite a range. So, there are things like phlebotomy and aspirin, which has been the mainstay of therapy for many years. There are drugs like hydroxyurea (Hydrea), interferons, JAK inhibitors. So, ruxolitinib is approved in certain settings for treating polycythemia vera. So, the landscape is broad. There are a lot of questions going on right now with polycythemia vera with regards to how it should best be treated. Is the mainstay of phlebotomy and aspirin really what we should be doing or should we be giving patients treatment earlier on. 

And there is some data to suggest that. There is this drug called ropeginterferon (Besremi) that’s FDA-approved for polycythemia, which was compared in the study to phlebotomy and aspirin.  

And at least the data suggests that there may be better control of the disease and less progression possibly, and it’s a small number of patients, by treating patients earlier. Whereas we would have just given phlebotomy and aspirin. So, it’s something to consider. There are drugs in clinical trials as well that look promising one of which is called rusfertide, which actually works by changing the way iron is used by the body. 

Iron is a key component to hemoglobin and it is, of course, a key component to polycythemia in the sense that we phlebotomize patients to make them iron deficient and that’s how we control the disease. But this is a pharmacological way to do that. So, that drug is now in Phase III trials. So, that may also alter the landscape of treatment of PV in the near future.  

Katherine Banwell:

Finally, how is essential thrombocythemia treated? 

Dr. Raajit Rampal:

So, in some cases, with absolutely nothing as we had talked about a moment ago. There is some thought that in really, really low-risk patients. Maybe you don’t need to do anything except observe them. Whereas most patients are on an aspirin. And beyond that, we have drugs like interferon, pegylated interferon, and hydroxyurea and anagrelide, all of which can be utilized. It’s not entirely clear if there is one distinct first line treatment that is the best but these drugs are all active. JAK inhibitors have been studied in this setting. And to date, the data hasn’t led to their approval but, certainly, people have studied it.   

Katherine Banwell:

Dr. Rampal, how can you tell if a treatment is effective? Are there signs that you look for? 

Dr. Raajit Rampal:

Well, I think it’s a couple of things.  

One, are we meeting the treatment goals in terms of are we controlling blood counts with ET or PV? That’s one of the first principles in management. And with regards to MF, the same thing. Are patients’ symptoms being controlled? Is the spleen being adequately controlled? And then, there’s the symptom burden because just because the blood counts are being controlled, patients may still have symptoms, in which case, they are not being adequately treated. And then, we have to do our best to try to find a treatment strategy that does control their blood counts but also does control their symptoms. So, there is the blood count perspective but there is the symptom perspective as well. 

What Are the Long-Term Effects of JAK Inhibitors?

What Are the Long-Term Effects of JAK Inhibitors? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

MPN expert Dr. Gabriela Hobbs discusses what researchers know about the long-term safety of JAK inhibitors and options for patients if the treatment loses effectiveness over time.

Dr. Gabriela Hobbs is a hematology-oncology physician specializing in the care of patients with myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN), chronic myeloid leukemia, and leukemia. Dr. Hobbs serves as clinical director of the adult leukemia service at Massachusetts General Hospital. Learn more about Dr. Hobbs.

See More From MPN Clinical Trials 201

Related Programs:

Advances in Essential Thrombocythemia Research

Advances in Essential Thrombocythemia Research

Advances in Myelofibrosis Research

Advances in Myelofibrosis Research

Should All MPN Patients Undergo Molecular Testing

Should All MPN Patients Undergo Molecular Testing?


Transcript:

Katherine:

What are the long-term effects of JAK inhibitors? And what happens when JAK inhibitors are no longer effective? 

Dr. Hobbs:

Yeah. Great question. So, so far the patients that have been on JAK inhibitors for a long time don’t seem to have the development of additional toxicities that we didn’t know about.  

So, I’ll just comment on some of the things that we do know about. Weight gain is a common complaint that I have from patients, especially those that have polycythemia vera, because maybe they didn’t want to gain weight when they were put on a JAK inhibitor compared to the myelofibrosis patients who maybe had lost a lot of weight before being on a JAK inhibitor.  

There are certainly higher risk probably of developing infections with some of the JAK inhibitors. And we see, for example, shingles reactivation being a common one. And there’s the concern of development of skin cancers, which has been seen with some JAK inhibitors. But generally speaking, long-term use seems to be safe. That being said, ruxolitinib (Jakafi), which is the oldest one to be approved, has only been around since 2011, so we don’t have decades worth of experience to know.  

When JAK inhibitors stop working – to answer the second part of your question – until fairly recently we really didn’t have a whole lot to offer because there was only one JAK inhibitor. Now we have two others. We have fedratinib (Inrebic) and also pacritinib (Vonjo). And we know from the studies that have been done with both of these agents that some patients that lose response to Jakafi, meaning that their spleen starts to grow or their symptoms start to come back, can be treated with these other JAK inhibitors.  

And many patients will, again, have control of their spleen and symptoms. Now losing response to a JAK inhibitor can come in many different ways. And so, some patients may also develop signs of having leukemia or progression of their disease to leukemia. And, unfortunately, for those patients, being on another JAK inhibitor doesn’t make sense. So, those patients may need to receive other types of medications or a stem cell transplant. 

Advances in Myelofibrosis Research

Advances in Myelofibrosis Research from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What are the recent developments in the study and advancement of myelofibrosis treatment? MPN researcher Dr. Gabriela Hobbs discusses ongoing clinical trials for new JAK inhibitors, BET inhibitors, and anemia therapies, among others.

Dr. Gabriela Hobbs is a hematology-oncology physician specializing in the care of patients with myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN), chronic myeloid leukemia, and leukemia. Dr. Hobbs serves as clinical director of the adult leukemia service at Massachusetts General Hospital. Learn more about Dr. Hobbs.

See More From MPN Clinical Trials 201

Related Programs:

Key Questions to Ask When Considering an MPN Clinical Trial

Key Questions to Ask When Considering an MPN Clinical Trial

How MPN Researchers Collaborate to Advance Patient Care

How MPN Researchers Collaborate to Advance Patient Care

What Are the Long-Term Effects of JAK Inhibitors

What Are the Long-Term Effects of JAK Inhibitors?


Transcript:

Katherine:

What about myelofibrosis, Dr. Hobbs? What advances are being made in the care of patients with this more advanced MPN? 

Dr. Hobbs:

Yeah. So, in myelofibrosis, I would say it is almost difficult to keep track of how many clinical trials are currently open. So, in 2011, we had ruxolitinib approved, or Jakafi. That was the first JAK inhibitor. Since then, we’ve had two more JAK inhibitors approved, fedratinib (Inrebic) and most recently pacritinib (Vonjo). And we’re currently awaiting the fourth JAK inhibitor to be approved, and that’s called momelotinib.   

And in addition to the JAK inhibitors, there are lots of other clinical trials underway right now that are either alone – a drug by itself or a drug in combination with ruxolitinib.  

So, there are several Phase III studies. And the reason why that’s important is that after Phase III we usually see a drug approval. So, we can expect, hopefully in the next couple of years, to see many more drugs available on the market to treat patients with myelofibrosis. Some of those include agents that block different pathways within a cell. And that includes a drug called parsaclisib. There’s a drug called pelabresib (CPI-0610), which is a BET inhibitor.  

There’s another drug called navitoclax (ABT-263), which is a cousin of venetoclax (Venclexta), which is a drug that we’ve been using a lot in leukemia. So, there’s lots of different drugs that are being used in combination with ruxolitinib. There’s also a drug called luspatercept (Reblozyl) that’s also been approved for myelodysplastic syndromes. And I suspect that that’ll be approved as well to help patients with anemia. So, really, there’s lots of drugs that are being studied right now. And I think the question that we’re all asking is, well, how are we going to use all of these different drugs? So, I look forward to seeing the results of those studies.  

Katherine:

Mm-hmm. Will some drugs work better for some patients and others not? 

Dr. Hobbs:

That is such a good question. And so, what I’m hoping to see is exactly that. I’m hoping to see that for patients, for example, with anemia, perhaps we’re going to be using luspatercept and momelotinib. Perhaps we’re going to see that patients with certain mutations may respond better to certain medications like the BET inhibitors or navitoclax or the PI3 kinase inhibitor, parsaclisib. But as of now, we don’t have enough information.  

We haven’t seen enough results of these studies to start to be able to know, you know, what is the patient that’s going to do better with two drugs versus one drug? And so, I think that over the next couple of years we’re going to start to have answers to those questions.  

How Driver Mutation Research Is Advancing MPN Treatments

How Driver Mutation Research Is Advancing MPN Treatments from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

How do driver mutations affect MPN care? MPN researcher Dr. Gabriela Hobbs shares an update on what’s being learned about the JAK mutation and how researchers are working towards targeted therapy for MPNs.

Dr. Gabriela Hobbs is a hematology-oncology physician specializing in the care of patients with myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN), chronic myeloid leukemia, and leukemia. Dr. Hobbs serves as clinical director of the adult leukemia service at Massachusetts General Hospital. Learn more about Dr. Hobbs.

See More From MPN Clinical Trials 201

Related Programs:

Advances in Essential Thrombocythemia Research

Advances in Essential Thrombocythemia Research

Advances in Polycythemia Vera Research

Advances in Polycythemia Vera Research

Advances in Myelofibrosis Research

Advances in Myelofibrosis Research


Transcript:

Katherine:

There have been huge developments in the last 10 to 15 years in the field of MPN. So, I’d like to dig a little deeper. We hear about the common driver mutations in MPNs like JAK2, CALR, and MPL. How are these being studied , and what is being discovered?  

Dr. Hobbs:

Yeah. So, it’s amazing how in the last 15 years really so much has been discovered. You know. The JAK2 mutation was first published out in 2005 and calreticulin in 2013. So, those are relatively recent discoveries. And I think a lot of efforts has been put into learning about what these mutations are doing and how they lead to disease. And so, we have the JAK inhibitors, which block the signaling through a pathway called JAK-STAT. And all of these mutations will activate that pathway within cells.  

And so, many of the approved drugs, for example, ruxolitinib (Jakafi), fedratinib (Inrebic), and pacritinib (Vonjo), work on blocking that pathway.  

But since then, we’ve also learned that there are other mutations and other pathways that are likely involved in the development of myeloproliferative neoplasms and also their progression. And so, what we’re seeing now is that many of the clinical trials that are being conducted don’t just target the JAK-STAT pathway or the pathway that’s influenced by these main mutations.  

But also block other pathways to try to really block all the variant expression of signaling in the myeloproliferative neoplasms. And so, we’re trying to attack it by many different angles.  

Katherine:

Yeah. Is there a possibility of specific targeted therapies at MPNs similar to those in AML such as FLT3 inhibitors? 

Dr. Hobbs:

Absolutely. So, similarly to AML, we know that we have mutations in similar types of genes called tyrosine kinases. So, these are enzymes that are turned on and always active. And so, I think there is definitely hope that we can develop some targeted agents. For example, ruxolitinib or the other JAK inhibitors are similar. They’re tyrosine kinase inhibitors where they block an enzyme, specifically the JAK2 enzyme.  

But I think that we can definitely do better and develop more specific inhibitors, for example, a molecule that just blocks the JAK2 mutation and not just every JAK2 molecule in every cell. Similarly to AML, there are mutations, for example, in enzymes called IDH.  

And we have IDH inhibitors for AML. And there are some studies that are using IDH inhibitors for MPN. So, I think we’re going to continue to see more targeted therapies specific to the mutations that occur in MPN. 

An Overview of ET, PV and MF Treatment Options

An Overview of ET, PV and MF Treatment Options from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Treatment for essential thrombocythemia (ET), polycythemia vera (PV), and myelofibrosis (MF) can vary greatly. Dr. John Mascarenhas breaks down the treatment types and the goals of treatment for each type of myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN).

Dr. John Mascarenhas is Associate Professor of Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS) and the Director of the Adult Leukemia Program and Leader of Clinical Investigation within the Myeloproliferative Disorders Program at Mount Sinai. Learn more about Dr. Mascarenhas, here.

See More from INSIST! MPNs

Download Guide

Related Programs

What Questions Should Patients Ask About MPN Test Results

What Questions Should Patients Ask About MPN Test Results?

Patient Considerations That Impact MPN Treatment Decisions

Patient Considerations That Impact MPN Treatment Decisions

What Are the Benefits of MPN Inhibitor Treatment

What Are the Benefits of MPN Inhibitor Treatment?


Transcript

Katherine Banwell:

Depending on the patient, it seems like ET or PV may be easily managed. So, how are they treated? Let’s start with essential thrombocythemia or ET.

Dr. Mascarenhas:       

So, ET is a disease in which first and foremost, we’re trying to reduce the risk of thrombosis, clotting, and/or hemorrhage bleeding. So, typically, ET patients are risk stratified by low risk or high risk.

It’s almost simply based on their age, whether they’ve had a clot in the past, and some systems now even incorporate other factors like mutation status. And, you tailor the treatment based on their risk score. So, low risk ET patients don’t necessarily need to be treated. They can be followed expectantly and watched. The height of the platelet count does not predict thrombotic risk. So, we don’t treat the platelet count per se. A high-risk patient is at high risk for clotting. So, these patients almost invariably are getting aspirin at a baseline, and they are often on cytoreductive therapy. And sometimes, that is chemotherapy like hydroxyurea. Sometimes it’s a non-chemotherapeutic option and like anagrelide, and sometimes it’s a biologic therapy like interferon alfa either 2a, Pegasys, or 2b ropeginterferon. And, these are therapies that have rationale, that have clinical data, that have demonstrated reduction in risk of clotting, which again is the reason why we treat high-risk ET patients.

Katherine Banwell:                  

And, what about PV, polycythemia vera?

Dr. Mascarenhas:     

So, in polycythemia vera, it’s similar to ET. We risk stratify patients low and high risk based on age and clotting histories. And whether you’re low or high risk, we give PV patients aspirin or at least once daily, and we look to keep their hematocrit below a threshold of 45 percent. And sometimes in women, we even go lower, to 42  percent. But the idea is that controlling the hematocrit, which is one of the red blood cells indices, you reduce the risk of having clots, and that’s been shown actually many years ago and reinforced in a very well-known study called the CYTO-PV study in Italy documented that if you keep the hematocrit less than 45 percent, so, stringent control versus allowing for less stringent control between 45 to 50, that you reduce by fourfold the number of cardiovascular events that can occur.

So, we know that controlling the hematocrit is important, and that can be done, again, with hydroxyurea, interferon, and ruxolitinib.

The JAK2 inhibitor has also proved specifically for patients who had an intolerance or refractory hydroxyurea, but also importantly as a drug that can address, probably better than most drugs in this field, the symptom burden that could be problematic for some of those patients. But, it’s really about controlling the hematocrit.

Katherine Banwell:                  

Yeah. Since myelofibrosis is a progressive condition, I imagine that makes it more difficult to manage. So, what else is available for patients with myelofibrosis?

Dr. Mascarenhas:       

The first line of treatment is typically a JAK inhibitor, although I would say that there are a subset of patients – well, there are patients we sometimes meet that have very low risk disease. They don’t have those clinical variables we discussed before that could uptick their risk score, and some of those patients can be watched.

And interestingly, there are a subset of patients that can have an indolent or slow form of the disease where they don’t have aggressive changes in their disease, their blood counts, their symptoms, their spleen, and don’t need immediate treatment. Most patients would benefit from a JAK inhibitor, although there are a subset of patients where their issue is less simple in spleen burden and it’s more anemia.

So, we take those patients where anemia’s the focus, we look at their erythropoietin level, which is their endogenous hormone level that regulates red blood cell production. If it’s low, we give them a lab-based form of erythropoietin, something called Procrit or Aranesp. If it’s high, we will move on. We can use a drug called danazol, which is a synthetic male androgen which can improve hemoglobin levels in 20 to 40 percent of patients. Or, we can use a drug called lenalidomide, which is an immunomodulatory drug. And, more recently, there’s a drug in testing called to luspatercept, which is an active activin receptor ligand trap. So, there is a growing armamentarium of drugs that can be used to try to alleviate the anemia which is present and can be a significant issue in about a quarter of patients with myelofibrosis upfront at time of diagnosis or about 75  percent through the course of their disease. So, that’s an unmet need that still requires attention and may alter the treatment plan for a given patient.

Katherine Banwell:                  

What about stem cell transplants?

Dr. Mascarenhas:       

So, we relegate stem cell plant transplants for those patients as mentioned before that are higher risk because we think that the potential benefit-to-risk ratio is in favor of transplant.

Transplant is really a modality that is the only modality that offers the potential for cure, but it’s also a modality that poses a significant risk of morbidity and mortality associated with it. So, it has to really be taken very seriously. It can’t be the kind of treatment you would think of as a last resort at the last minute. Once you see a transplanter, if they’re interested in that therapy and see it early on in the disease course, in my opinion, to start that dialog and then figure out when is the optimal time to employ a bone marrow transplant, which is not a surgical procedure. It’s often thought to be surgical. It’s not a transplant of an organ. It’s a transplant of hematopoietic cells. So, it’s really an infusion of stem cells that then end up in the person’s bone marrow, and they create a whole new hematopoietic system and immune system. And with that, you can have an immune system that then goes after the myelofibrosis stem cells.

That’s called graft-versus-leukemia effect. But with that included graft-versus-host disease, which is when the new graft, the new immune system doesn’t always recognize well the person’s own tissues, whether it’s the liver, or the lung, or the skin, and you can have immunologic reactions to that.

So, that’s a complex discussion. But, transplant, typically for patients less than 70 years of age who have high-risk myelofibrosis or even up to 75 if they have a good performance status and as we said don’t have a lot of comorbid issues with a goal of cure. So, if you have someone where their goal is to try to maximize their time out of the hospital and they’re not focused on longevity, their focused on quality of life, that may not be an appropriate patient for transplantation.

So, I think a very upfront, honest and a transparent discussion with the patient about what to expect with transplant, what are the pros and cons, what are the risks involved, and importantly does it match up with their expectations or their desires.

What Are the Benefits of MPN Inhibitor Treatment?

What Are the Benefits of MPN Inhibitor Treatment? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

MPN expert Dr. John Mascarenhas shares an overview of how inhibitor therapy works to treat myelofibrosis (MF) and the benefits of this type of treatment.

Dr. John Mascarenhas is Associate Professor of Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS) and the Director of the Adult Leukemia Program and Leader of Clinical Investigation within the Myeloproliferative Disorders Program at Mount Sinai. Learn more about Dr. Mascarenhas, here.

See More from INSIST! MPNs

Download Guide

Related Programs

An Overview of ET, PV and MF Treatment Options

An Overview of ET, PV and MF Treatment Options

Which Gene Mutations Impact Myelofibrosis Treatment Options?

Which Gene Mutations Impact Myelofibrosis Treatment Options?

What Are the Considerations When Choosing Myelofibrosis Therapy?

What Are the Considerations When Choosing Myelofibrosis Therapy?


Transcript

Katherine Banwell:

Dr. Mascarenhas, what is inhibitor therapy and how does that work?

Dr. Mascarenhas:       

So, inhibitor therapy in general are usually oral drugs for the most part, small molecule inhibitors that are geared and usually specific but not totally specific because then they can have off-target effects, but geared to inhibiting usually an enzyme that is overactive or is contributing to the pathophysiology of the disease.

I think in MF, probably one of the best examples is a JAK2 inhibitor. So, there are a number of JAK2 inhibitors that have been in clinical testing. There are two that are approved, ruxolitinib and fedratinib which are excellent drugs in inhibiting JAK2 protein itself in the cells that could be either upregulated or hyperactive in the signaling pathway, and it quiets down a signaling pathway in the hematopoietic cells that leads to a lot of the manifestations of the disease, namely symptoms and spleen.

So, one of the clear benefits of JAK inhibitors that was established many years ago and reinforced by multiple drugs that are either approved or in late-stage testing is these drugs are excellent in improving the symptom burden in the patients and reducing their spleen. Unfortunately, as a class, we’ve not seen these drugs induce remissions or cure patients. So, there’s still interest in developing, obviously, non-JAK inhibitor therapies. But inhibitors in general are inhibiting proteins that are either inappropriately activated or part of a cascade of signaling molecules that are contributing to the disease.

And they are not chemotherapeutic, which might be an important point to make. In past days, we’ve relied heavily in hematologic malignancies in using chemotherapies which are nonspecific and just kill dividing cells whereas inhibitors typically are targeted, and in some sense, it’s personalized to the disease with toxicity profiles that are usually quite distinct from the traditional chemotherapies that we use.  

 

What’s YOUR Role in Making Myelofibrosis Treatment Decisions?

What’s YOUR Role in Making Myelofibrosis Treatment Decisions? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

How can you play a role in your myelofibrosis care? Dr. Joseph Scandura shares his personal philosophy on patient care and the important role of shared decision-making.

Dr. Joseph Scandura is Associate Professor of Medicine and Scientific Director of the Silver MPN Center at Weill Cornell Medicine. Learn more about Dr. Scandura, here.

Related Programs:

Have You Had These Essential Myelofibrosis Tests?

What Are the Considerations When Choosing Myelofibrosis Therapy?

Expert Perspective: Promising Myelofibrosis Treatment Research


Transcript

Katherine Banwell:

Dr. Scandura, what is the role of the patient in making treatment decisions? 

Dr. Scandura:

My personal philosophy is I view myself and my interactions with patients as a partnership. And I have and I bring to this partnership medical knowledge, some scientific knowledge, experience treating patients, understanding the diseases and the biology of the diseases. 

What patients bring is their personal histories, what they want and need from therapy, what their expectations are, where their fears and concerns might be. And as we share our information, I think that provides the opportunity to come to an understanding where the patient can make an informed decision and I can support that decision, that we know what the groundwork has been between us. And so, I spend, often, a lot of time in the beginning with patients kind of trying to understand who they are as people and what they need and expect. And everybody, as you might imagine, is an individual.  

And I present to them the information, and I try to encourage questions so that I know that they understand the information that I’m giving so that they can make a decision in their best interest. And so, I think shared decision-making is the only model I practice.  

Now, patients have different needs, particularly some of my older patients. And, culturally, there are some differences where they don’t want to take that role of being the decision-maker. And so, then my role changes a little bit, and it becomes more to make sure they’re comfortable and understand the direction that we’re going in and, again, always trying to encourage people to take ownership. 

I think, in New York City, that’s not so common. People are pretty well-informed and interested and more than willing to express their opinions.  

And so, I would say it can be very rewarding to come to a decision where patients feel their needs are being met.  

Expert Perspective: Promising Myelofibrosis Treatment Research

Expert Perspective: Promising Myelofibrosis Treatment Research from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Dr. Joseph Scandura shares optimism about myelofibrosis therapy in clinical trials, including excitement about anti-fibrotic agents and how they work.

Dr. Joseph Scandura is Associate Professor of Medicine and Scientific Director of the Silver MPN Center at Weill Cornell Medicine. Learn more about Dr. Scandura, here.

Related Programs

What Are the Considerations When Choosing Myelofibrosis Therapy?

How Does Inhibitor Therapy Work to Treat Myelofibrosis?

What’s YOUR Role in Making Myelofibrosis Treatment Decisions?


Transcript

Katherine Banwell:

Dr. Scandura, you mentioned promising research in myelofibrosis treatment. What are you most excited about right now? 

Dr. Scandura:

I think there are a couple drugs that have been in clinical trials that have had activity in a significant subset. So, anywhere from 20 to 50 percent of patients where the bone marrow fibrosis is actually reversed. 

And this is really something that we haven’t seen with other agents. And the approved agents, when that does happen, it’s really in a vast, vast minority of patients. And so, these newer drugs and, often, they’re used in combination with other approved drugs, can reverse the fibrosis in the marrow. And that is what I find most intriguing and exciting. They seem to be well-tolerated medications with predictable and reversible side effects when they do exist. And I think that time will tell if the promise is long-lived or if it’s short-lived. I mean, obviously, new drugs we don’t have the experience with that we really need. 

The clinical trials that are available now with some of these agents are in the last stages before the companies go to the FDA seeking approval for use. 

And so, we don’t have their results from those studies yet. They’re just opening, so sometimes the excitement doesn’t bear out when we do the rigorous clinical trials. But I’m actually quite optimistic about some of these agents, and I think that there is going to really be a sea change in how we treat patients and some of the outcomes we can expect from our therapies.  

What Are the Considerations When Choosing Myelofibrosis Therapy?

What Are the Considerations When Choosing Myelofibrosis Therapy? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

 When choosing a myelofibrosis treatment, how do you determine what might be best for you? Dr. Joseph Scandura shares expert advice, including a review of inhibitor therapy and stem cell transplant.

Dr. Joseph Scandura is Associate Professor of Medicine and Scientific Director of the Silver MPN Center at Weill Cornell Medicine. Learn more about Dr. Scandura, here.

Related Programs

Have You Had These Essential Myelofibrosis Tests?

Which Gene Mutations Impact Myelofibrosis Treatment Options?

How Does Inhibitor Therapy Work to Treat Myelofibrosis?


Transcript

Katherine Banwell:

What are the considerations when choosing treatment for myelofibrosis?  

Dr. Scandura:

I would say in broad strokes, the primary considerations are the patient, what they want, the disease, what our options are, and the overall condition in terms of what are our possibilities for therapy and what is the risk/benefit of some of these different therapies. So, in myelofibrosis, although there’s been a huge amount of research over the past 10 years, really blossoming and are very impressive in, I think, an exciting way, there really are only two therapies that are approved by the FDA in the treatment of myelofibrosis, and those both affect one class of agents. These are JAK2 inhibitors, and those can be ruxolitinib (Jakafi) and fedratinib (Inrebicare the two drugs that are approved. 

Now, we have a number of therapies that have been used off-label, meaning without FDA approval, so often and for so long that they’re considered alternative standards of therapy. These can be growth factors; these can be biological agents in certain situations. And then, clinical trials is really increasingly a common therapeutic option for patients.  

And then, on the most aggressive side, is hematopoietic stem cell transplant and allogeneic transplant getting blood-forming cells from another person and replacing the entire blood system through transplant. 

Katherine Banwell:

So, who is right for a stem cell transplant? 

Dr. Scandura:

I would say, first and foremost, an informed patient about the risks of transplant and a patient for whom a donor exists, and a good quality donor. Transplant is not an option for some people or if a donor can’t be identified, obviously. 

And it’s a patient for whom the risk balance, the risk/benefit balance is tipped so that the potential toxicity, frankly, of transplant is warranted. Transplant is our most aggressive therapy. Virtually every patient will have significant side effects from transplant. Some of them are short-lived, some of them can be chronic. People die from the consequences of transplant. And so, it’s not something that is considered in patients who are necessarily doing well or are frail. The risk of transplant versus the benefit may not be in favor of transplant at that time.  

My approach for transplant is to get advice from transplant physicians. I’m not a transplant physician, but I have colleagues who I refer to. 

And I refer in myelofibrosis fairly universally fairly early, with the rationale being that this is information. It is not a plan; it is to speak to a transplant, what kind of donor exists. If no donor exists, then transplant is not on the table. If we have a very good, high-quality donor, then this is something that wouldn’t make the decision in itself, but it’s kind of something we can keep in our hip pocket in case we need it. And I think it’s important for patients to understand and have a full and complete discussion with a transplant physician so they understand what that means. You know, it is a significant commitment of time and morbidity, and it comes with risks. 

It is also our only curative therapy. And so, it’s a double-edged sword, and I think informed patients and understanding what the options are are the gateway to any consideration of transplant.   

How Does Inhibitor Therapy Work to Treat Myelofibrosis?

How Does Inhibitor Therapy Work to Treat Myelofibrosis? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What is inhibitor therapy? Dr. Joseph Scandura reviews approved JAK inhibitor therapies and explains how they work to treat myelofibrosis.

Dr. Joseph Scandura is Associate Professor of Medicine and Scientific Director of the Silver MPN Center at Weill Cornell Medicine. Learn more about Dr. Scandura, here.

Related Programs

Which Gene Mutations Impact Myelofibrosis Treatment Options?

What Are the Considerations When Choosing Myelofibrosis Therapy?

What’s YOUR Role in Making Myelofibrosis Treatment Decisions?


Transcript

Katherine Banwell:

How does inhibitor therapy work to treat myelofibrosis? 

Dr. Scandura:

So, the therapies that we have now that are approved therapies that are in this class are  ruxolitinib (Jakafi) and fedratinib (Inrebic) 

Both of these agents act to block signaling through a protein called JAK2. You can think of JAK2 as being part of the antennae system that a cell uses to communicate with the rest of the body. And so, our blood-forming cells have a lot of input from the body saying, “Okay, we need some of these kinds of cells, we need some of those kinds of cells,” and it’s a very adaptive system. And JAK2 is involved in a lot of the signaling in this as part of the antennae system.  

And what happens in the myeloproliferative neoplasms is that signaling is a bit excessive. 

And so, it’s like the volume is turned up too loud and the signaling is causing the cells to do things, make too many cells, make the wrong kinds of cells, and JAK2 is part of that signaling system. So, these inhibitors kind of help turn down the volume of the signaling in these blood-forming cells. They are drugs that have good activity in improving symptoms, they have great success in reducing the size of the spleen, they can be useful for a few years to many years. They are not curative therapies. We don’t think of them as therapies that change the course of disease, but they certainly have an important role in helping people feel better. There are other inhibitor therapies that are in clinical development. 

So, clinical trials of some of these drugs have really impressive activity, but none is approved yet by the FDA.  

I hope and expect we’ll have a couple more drugs available in the coming years. And there’s a lot of excitement in clinical trials in terms of some of the activities that are being seen, and really quite tolerable therapies, so not a lot of side effects for patients. And so, I think it’s kind of an exciting time for physicians and for patients and a lot more options now and, I think, a lot more options coming down the line.

Have You Had These Essential Myelofibrosis Tests?

Have You Had These Essential Myelofibrosis Tests? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What are the essential tests that should follow a myelofibrosis diagnosis? Dr. Joseph Scandura reviews the necessary laboratory testing, along with a discussion of next generation sequencing, and explains how often bone marrow biopsies should take place.

Dr. Joseph Scandura is Associate Professor of Medicine and Scientific Director of the Silver MPN Center at Weill Cornell Medicine. Learn more about Dr. Scandura, here.

Related Programs

Which Gene Mutations Impact Myelofibrosis Treatment Options?

What Are the Considerations When Choosing Myelofibrosis Therapy?

How Does Inhibitor Therapy Work to Treat Myelofibrosis?


Transcript

Katherine Banwell: 

What testing should take place following a myelofibrosis diagnosis? 

Dr. Scandura:  

So, a diagnosis of myelofibrosis always comes after a bone marrow exam and a physical examination. Often, patients have an enlarged spleen and blood count testing and a variety of other laboratory tests. So, after that and a diagnosis is made of myelofibrosis and, sort of, coincident with the diagnosis, we often look for molecular markers of myelofibrosis. So, these are malignancies of the bone marrow, cancers, if you will, on the bone marrow, although the term is scarier than or is different than what we think of for many malignancies in how it acts. But the myelofibrosis, this is a disease that’s characterized by, really, mutations in the malignant cells, the abnormal cells. 

They’re really just one of three genes. And so, JAK2 being one of the genes, calreticulin or CALR being another one, and MPL one.  

And more than 90 percent are people having mutation in just one of those three genes. And so, often at the time of diagnosis, tests for those mutations are done, and they help eliminate the possibilities of other causes of myelofibrosis – infections, rheumatological diseases. Sometimes, you can have marrow fibrosis but they don’t go along with mutations and the same clinical situation. And so, at the time of diagnosis, we usually know something about a mutation in JAK2, CALR, or MPL.    

More commonly now, and it’s increasingly common over the past 10 years in, I would say, in New York City and many places across the country, we also look more broadly for other common mutations in the MPN cells. And these are what we refer in the batch as next generation sequencing or NGS panels, and we use the term panels because we’re looking at from a few tens to even 100 or a couple hundred genes for mutations that occur far less frequently than in JAK2 or MPL or CALR.  

But they occur often enough that some of them we use to help guide treatment decision-making or approach to therapy. The reality of it is that that the technology to sequence and identify mutations has really outstripped our knowledge of what to do with all of that information. 

And, for the vast majority of people, it comes down to do you have a marker, a genetic marker that tends to go along with higher risk, meaning a higher likelihood of something that we don’t want to have happen. And in that instance, although it may be looking at a hundred or so genes, it comes down to a binary thing – either you have or you don’t have. 

Katherine Banwell:

Is there any other testing that you usually want to do? 

Dr. Scandura:

Laboratory testing, for sure and, as I mentioned before, a bone marrow exam. But physical examination, some people might do imaging of the spleen size. Honestly, I don’t routinely do that outside of the setting of the clinical trial. I don’t really think it dictates therapy very often. 

And if the spleen is so small that you can’t feel it on physical exam, it probably isn’t clinically meaningful anyway in terms of something to treat. It might be there, but it doesn’t really change things too much.   

Katherine Banwell:

How often should patients have a bone marrow biopsy? 

Dr. Scandura:

So, I’ll answer there is no standard in terms of monitoring for myelofibrosis with the marrow or otherwise. My personal approach is I do a marrow when I think it’s going to help medical decision-making. And so, for a patient who’s got early myelofibrosis, who’s been very stable, responding well to therapy, that could be three, five years between marrow exams. 

For somebody who’s being considered for a clinical trial, oftentimes, a marrow exam is required before they start on the clinical trial and at various intervals afterwards. If there’s somebody who had been stable and something is changing, like the blood counts are changing or his symptoms are changing, or any of a number of clinical features, then I might look in the marrow to see what’s happening there, to see if explains and can help guide a treatment approach to help people feel better. So, there is no single standard, but my personal approach is to do a bone marrow exam when I think it’s going to help make a decision.  

What Are the Treatment Options for Myelofibrosis?

What Are the Treatment Options for Myelofibrosis? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

When choosing a treatment for myelofibrosis (MF), where do you start? Dr. Laura Michaelis reviews the available options for MF therapy, including a discussion of stem cell transplant. 

Dr. Laura Michaelis is hematologist specializing in myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs) at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin, where she also serves as Associate Professor of Medicine. Learn more about Dr. Michaelis here.


Related Resources

 

Which MPN Treatment is Right for You: Factors to Consider

 

MPNs and Coronavirus: What Patients Should Know

 

MPN Treatment Decisions: Which Path is Best for You?


Transcript:

Dr. Michaelis:                       

So, myelofibrosis is among the most aggressive of the myeloproliferative neoplasms. And yet, it still has a broad swath of risk associated with it. And that means that compared to essential thrombocythemia and polycythemia vera, myelofibrosis – primary myelofibrosis tends to be more aggressive and needs to be treated more aggressively.

There are a group of patients who have what we call low-risk or even intermediate 1 risk myelofibrosis who don’t need treatment – who can be followed, whose blood counts can be checked, who can be regularly seen by their doctor, and who can avoid treatment for some period of time, depending on their risk factors.

And so, if you’re diagnosed with primary myelofibrosis, the first question is do I need treatment? And the second question – if the answer to that is yes, then you have to figure out why you need treatment. There is currently only one intervention that is known to be curative in myelofibrosis, and that’s the use of stem cell transplant.

Stem cell transplant, which is also called bone marrow transplant or allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant, is basically a procedure where a donor is able to have their stem cells collected. And then the recipient, who’s the person with the myelofibrosis, undergoes a series of chemotherapy treatments to basically wipe out the bone marrow that they have. And it’s then replaced, using basically a blood transfusion of the stem cells of someone else, which then grow up into the recipient.

This has been shown to be safe in myelofibrosis – well, relatively safe – if done in the right person, who’s relatively fit, and done at the right stage of disease. It’s not a procedure that everybody can tolerate. People need to be pretty fit. And it should be performed at a place that has done numerous transplants for myelofibrosis since it’s a relatively complicated form of stem cell transplant. That being said, in the right person at the right time, it’s an excellent opportunity and option for these patients.

Now in patients who can’t tolerate transplant or where that’s not the right step to go, we have medications. And those medications can sometimes delay the worsening of symptoms. They can certainly control spleen size, improve people’s quality of life, and often improve survival. And the medications that we’re talking about here are called JAK-STAT inhibitors.

And the first approved, and the one that’s most commonly used, is a medicine called ruxolitinib.

This is an oral pill – a pill that you take twice a day and has excellent data that supports that it shrinks the spleen in people with myelofibrosis, that it improves symptoms. And in people with advanced polycythemia vera, decreases the blood count without leading to iron deficiency and also improves symptoms and spleen size.

There’s another JAK-STAT inhibitor that’s approved. That’s a medicine called fedratinib. And it was recently approved in people who had progressed off of myelofibrosis or even in people – or after ruxolitinib or in people who – instead of taking ruxolitinib.

Now in essential thrombocythemia, polycythemia vera, and other times even myelofibrosis, we have other treatments that are commonly used that can be exceedingly helpful in controlling symptoms and blood counts. Those include, for example, hydroxyurea, pegylated interferon, and sometimes treatments aimed at helping anemia, like steroids or derivatives of thalidomide.

And finally, I don’t want to let this end without saying that clinical trials are often an excellent possibility for patients with these conditions, like myelofibrosis.

So, when you are contemplating starting a treatment, it’s really important to ask your physician whether or not there’s any clinical trials that are right for you.