Analysis of essential thrombocythemia and its treatment
Cowart, Cade Alan
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Essential thrombocythemia (ET) is a rare myeloproliferative neoplasm affecting 43.7 out of every 100,000 people in the United States. The disease is characterized by abnormally high platelet counts, mutational abnormalities in Janus Kinase 2 (JAK2)/Calreticulin (CALR)/myeloproliferative leukemia virus oncogene (MPL), and increased megakaryocyte production and differentiation. The average age of onset for patients with ET is between 65-70 years, but recent studies have demonstrated a downward trend in the age of diagnosis. Mechanistically, ET mutations cause the dimerization of JAK and upregulation of the JAK-STAT pathways. Common treatment approaches seek to use cytoreduction and platelet inhibition to lower the risk of a thrombotic event. Hydroxyurea and low-dose aspirin have been the gold-standard of treatment for ET patients. This thesis sought to compare the current available therapy with second-line treatments and investigational treatments. Anagrelide is a key second-line treatment for ET that is used in the event of intolerance to hydroxyurea. It acts through cytoreductive mechanisms which result in a decreased platelet count. Major bleeding is a severe adverse event associated with anagrelide. Interferons are another second-line defense in the treatment of ET despite a lack of FDA approval for this indication. Interferons act directly to reduce platelet counts and, unlike other drug classes, mount an immunological response against the JAK2 stem cells to reduce the allelic burden. An immunological approach to ET may be key to the sustained treatment of the disorder without a daily dosing regimen. Despite the promise of interferons, severe adverse effects limit the adherence of many patients to this class of drugs. JAK inhibitors are an investigational drug class that acts directly through the JAK-STAT pathway. JAK inhibitors have shown little efficacy in the treatment of ET and may be better suited for treatment in combination therapies. Telomerase inhibitors are one such investigational drug class that may pair well with JAK inhibitors for the treatment of ET. All of these drug classes were compared to hydroxyurea with respect to their pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, and patient evaluation. Hydroxyurea and low-dose aspirin showed superiority in comparison to other drug classes due to their low toxicity profile and minimum adverse side-effects, high oral bioavailability and wide distribution, high adherence, and production of the most uniform response to reducing thrombotic events and platelet counts. The interferon drug class shows unique potential for the treatment of ET and should be placed above the second-line treatment standard of anagrelide due to its benefits in treatment of younger and pregnant patients. Interferons are the only class of drug for the treatment of ET that did not increase the risk of drug-related leukemogenic transformations. Despite non-adherence due to side-effects and lack of an oral administration, interferons are superior to anagrelide due to their longer dosing interval and immunological attack on JAK2 stem cells. Treatment of ET with anagrelide has shown similar efficacy to hydroxyurea and interferons in platelet reduction and rivals hydroxyurea in the prevention of thrombotic risk. Despite this benefit, the risk of bleeding associated with anagrelide is a significant disadvantage. Hydroxyurea and low-dose aspirin remain the current standard of treatment for patients with ET, although new approaches may soon be available.
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