On November 16, 2011, the Food and Drug Administration approved ruxolitinib (a JAK1 and JAK2 inhibitor) for use in the treatment of high and intermediate risk myelofibrosis. This is welcome news for those patients in whom such therapy is indicated and treatment benefit outweighs attendant risk. The question is who are these patients, what should they expect in terms of both short-term effects and long-term impact, and why would they choose ruxolitinib over other JAK inhibitors that are freely available for use in a research setting. Ruxolitinib and most other JAK inhibitors exert a salutary effect on constitutional symptoms and splenomegaly but have yet to produce histopathologic or cytogenetic remissions, reverse bone marrow fibrosis, or improve survival over best supportive care. Furthermore, the palliative value of JAK inhibitors is diminished by notable side effects, including anemia, thrombocytopenia, gastrointestinal disturbances, metabolic abnormalities, peripheral neuropathy, and hyperacute relapse of symptoms during treatment discontinuation. Therefore, risk-benefit balance favors use of currently available JAK inhibitors in only a select group of patients with myelofibrosis, and their potential value in polycythemia vera, outside of special circumstances (eg, intractable pruritus), is undermined by the absence of evidence for a disease-modifying effect and presence of arguably superior alternatives.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology