Polycythemia vera (PV) and essential thrombocythemia (ET) constitute two of the three BCR-ABL1-negative myeloproliferative neoplasms and are characterized by relatively long median survivals (approximately 14 and 20 years, respectively). Potentially fatal disease complications in PV and ET include disease transformation into myelofibrosis (MF) or acute myeloid leukemia (AML). The range of reported frequencies for post-PV MF were 4.9-6% at 10 years and 6-14% at 15 years and for post-ET MF were 0.8-4.9% at 10 years and 4-11% at 15 years. The corresponding figures for post-PV AML were 2.3-14.4% at 10 years and 5.5-18.7% at 15 years and for post-ET AML were 0.7-3% at 10 years and 2.1-5.3% at 15 years. Risk factors cited for post-PV MF include advanced age, leukocytosis, reticulin fibrosis, splenomegaly and JAK2V617F allele burden and for post-ET MF include advanced age, leukocytosis, anemia, reticulin fibrosis, absence of JAK2V617F, use of anagrelide and presence of ASXL1 mutation. Risk factors for post-PV AML include advanced age, leukocytosis, reticulin fibrosis, splenomegaly, abnormal karyotype, TP53 or RUNX1 mutations as well as use of pipobroman, radiophosphorus (P32) and busulfan and for post-ET AML include advanced age, leukocytosis, anemia, extreme thrombocytosis, thrombosis, reticulin fibrosis, TP53 or RUNX1 mutations. It is important to note that some of the aforementioned incidence figures and risk factor determinations are probably inaccurate and at times conflicting because of the retrospective nature of studies and the inadvertent labeling, in some studies, of patients with prefibrotic primary MF or 'masked' PV, as ET. Ultimately, transformation of MPN leads to poor outcomes and management remains challenging. Further understanding of the molecular events leading to disease transformation is being investigated.
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