The evolution and clinical relevance of prognostic classification systems in myelofibrosis

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Primary myelofibrosis, the most aggressive of the classic Philadelphia chromosome-negative myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs), is a clonal disorder characterized by often debilitating constitutional symptoms and splenomegaly, bone marrow fibrosis and resultant cytopenias, extramedullary hematopoiesis, risk of leukemic transformation, and shortened survival. Post-polycythemia vera and post-essential thrombocythemia myelofibrosis represent similar entities, although some differences are being recognized. Attempts to classify patients with myelofibrosis into prognostic categories have been made since the late 1980s, and these scoring systems continue to evolve as new information becomes available. Over the last decade, the molecular pathogenesis of MPNs has been elucidated considerably, and the Janus kinase (JAK) 1/2 inhibitor ruxolitinib is the first drug specifically approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to treat patients with intermediate-risk and high-risk myelofibrosis. This article reviews the evolution of prognostic criteria in myelofibrosis, emphasizing the major systems widely in use today, as well as recently described, novel systems that incorporate emerging data regarding somatic mutations. Risk factors for thrombosis and conversion to MPN blast phase also are discussed. Finally, the practical usefulness of the current prognostic classification systems in terms of clinical decision making is discussed, particularly within the context of some of their inherent weaknesses.

This article traces the evolution of prognostic criteria and scoring systems for myelofibrosis, both primary and post-polycythemia vera/essential thrombocythemia types, from early complete blood count–based systems to the current genomic era. Prognostic factors for not only survival but also thrombosis and leukemic transformation are discussed, and the clinical usefulness and drawbacks/pitfalls of the current and proposed systems are examined.

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