Research and coping with polycythaemia vera

Polycythaemia vera is one of a group of conditions called myeloproliferative neoplasms (myeloproliferative disorders). They also include:

  • myelofibrosis
  • essential thrombocythaemia

JAK2 gene

Researchers are looking at ways to improve the diagnosis and treatment of all myeloproliferative neoplasms. Some of this research is suggesting that it may be better to group these cancers depending on whether they are JAK2 positive or negative. And that this might improve targeted treatments in the future.

How do myeloproliferative neoplasms develop?

Researchers are looking to try to explain how myeloproliferative neoplasms develop. And to use this information to develop new treatments in the future. Scientists think that myeloproliferative neoplasms might happen because proteins called tyrosine kinases act as growth factors Open a glossary itemand tell cells to keep on dividing. Researchers are looking at white blood cells in samples from people taking part in a study. They are looking for tyrosine kinases and for any features or damage which may make them keep on dividing.

Blood clots

UK trial teams are also looking more closely at the relationship between PV and blood clots.

Research into treatment

Researchers are looking into new types of treatment to stop the JAK2 gene signalling to stem cells to make more blood cells. These are called JAK2 inhibitors.

Ruxolitinib is a JAK2 inhibitor. It works by slowing or stopping the growth of cancer cells. Some people with PV have ruxolitinib if hydroxycarbamide is not suitable for them. Doctors are looking at whether ruxolitinib would be a good treatment for people when they are first diagnosed with PV.

Givinostat is a drug that blocks proteins (enzymes) in the body called histone deacetylases. Blocking these enzymes may stop abnormal cells growing and dividing.

Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Database

You can find a clinical trial looking at polycythaemia vera on our clinical trials database. Click on the ‘recruiting’, ‘closed’ and ‘results’ tabs to make sure you see all the trials.

Outlook

PV is often diagnosed later in life. Generally speaking, the outlook is good, if the condition is carefully monitored and treated as needed.

Some people with PV go on to develop a more aggressive disease. This might include progressing to myelofibrosis, where the bone marrow becomes scarred and less able to produce cells. Around 5 in 100 people (around 5%) go on to develop acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). 

Everyone is different, and your specialist will be able to give you a clearer idea of how things look in your situation.

Coping

Coping with a rare condition can be difficult both practically and emotionally. Being well informed about your condition and possible treatments can make it easier to make decisions and cope with what happens.

It can also help to talk to people with the same thing. But it can be hard to find someone with a rare condition. You can look at Cancer Research UK’s discussion forum - Cancer Chat. It is a place to share experiences, stories and information with other people who know what you are going through.

For support and information, you can call the Cancer Research UK information nurses. They can give advice about who can help you and what kind of support is available. Freephone: 0808 800 4040 - Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

Organisations

There are organisations that also offer help and support. 

MPN Voice

MPN Voice provides information, community and advocacy for people with myeloproliferative neoplasms and their families or carers. They also have information for healthcare professionals.

Email: info@mpnvoice.org.uk 

Telephone: 07934 689 354 (Monday to Friday between 8am and 5pm)

Leukaemia Care

Leukaemia Care is a national blood cancer support charity, committed to ensuring that anyone affected by blood cancer receives the right information, advice and support. 

It provides a range of support services to patients and their carers, including information, support groups, patient and carer conferences, and nurse education days.

Nurse or support team number: Freephone 08088 010 444 opening times are:

  • Monday 9am to 5pm
  • Tuesday and Wednesday 9:15am to 2:15pm
  • Thursday 9:15am to 2:15pm and 7pm to 10pm
  • Friday 7pm to 10pm

Email: support@leukaemiacare.org.uk

Blood Cancer UK

Blood Cancer UK funds research into leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma. It also provides patient information booklets and leaflets that you can download or order from their website. 

Support line: 0808 2080 888 

Email address: support@bloodcancer.org.uk

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