Ruxolitinib, a Janus kinase (JAK)-1 and JAK-2 inhibitor, is the first-in-class drug to be licensed in the United States for the treatment of high- and intermediate-risk myelofibrosis (MF). Several other JAK inhibitors are in development with some currently undergoing phase-3 clinical trial testing. None of the currently available JAK inhibitors are specific to mutant JAK2; their mechanism of action involves attenuation of JAK-STAT signaling with downregulation of proinflammatory cytokines, rather than selective suppression of the disease clone. Accordingly, while ruxolitinib and other JAK inhibitors are effective in controlling splenomegaly and alleviating constitutional symptoms, their benefit in terms of reversing bone marrow fibrosis or inducing complete or partial remissions appears to be limited. The experience to date with ruxolitinib shows that despite its salutary effects on quality of life, over half of the patients discontinue treatment within 2-3 years. In the current perspective, we examine the incidence and causes of ruxolitinib 'treatment failure' in MF patients based on our personal experience as well as a review of the published literature. We also discuss the challenges in defining and classifying ruxolitinib failure, and within the context of several clinical scenarios, we provide recommendations for the post-ruxolitinib management of MF patients.
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