Although myeloproliferative neoplasms usually cannot be cured, there are treatments for all patients with the condition. Treatment of MPNs depends on the type and on the presence of symptoms. In general, treatment aims to correct the abnormal blood counts.
Some people don't experience any symptoms and therefore don't require treatment.
Low dose chemotherapy pills, such as hydrea, can be given to patients with essential thrombocythemia and polycythemia vera to lower their platelet and red blood cell counts. Phlebotomy (the removal of blood intravenously) is also an effective strategy for lowering red blood cell counts and controlling symptoms.
The treatment of choice for chronic myelogenous leukemia is a new anti-leukemia medication, called Gleevec. Testoterone therapy can sometimes improve anemia in patients with myelofibrosis. Other potential therapies for myelofibrosis include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, thalidomide and alpha interferon. In addition, patients with myelofibrosis frequently require red blood cell transfusions.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill extra blood cells in the body. Chemotherapy may be taken orally in a pill format or may be administered intravenously (through an IV). Chemotherapy is called a systemic treatment because the drug enters the bloodstream, travels through the body and can kill cells throughout the body.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays to kill cells and is sometimes used to relieve symptoms of MPN. External beam radiation therapy, which uses a machine outside the body to administer the radiation, is usually the type of radiation therapy used to treat MPN. In addition, a radioactive drug called P32 can be given intravenously to lower the number of red blood cells made by the bone marrow.
Surgery to remove the spleen, called a splenectomy, may be performed if a patient's spleen is swollen.
Biological therapy is being tested as a possible treatment of MPN. This type of therapy uses materials made either by the body or in a laboratory to boost, direct or restore the body's immune system. Biological therapy sometimes is called biological response modifier (BRM) therapy or immunotherapy.
Hormones may be used in certain instances to treat side effects of MPN. In patients with agnogenic myeloid metaplasia, hormones called glucocorticoids may be given to increase the life span of red blood cells. In addition, hormones called androgens sometimes are used to stimulate the bone marrow to produce more blood cells.
A person's recovery or response to therapy depends on their type of MPN, age and general health. Most people with essential thrombocythemia and polycythemia vera live more than 10 to 15 years with few complications. People with myelofibrosis live approximately five years and in some cases, the disease may develop into acute leukemia.
Stem Cell Transplantation
The only curative therapy for MPN (excluding chronic myelogenous leukemia) is allogeneic stem cell transplantation, which is the transfer of stem cells from one person to another.
Whether stem cell transplantation is an appropriate therapy for an individual patient depends on a number of factors including age, MPN subtype, current symptoms or the extent of disease and the availability of a donor. We encourage patients to consult with a stem cell transplantation doctor to learn more about MPN, possible treatments and stem cell transplantation.
UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.
Hematology and BMT Resource Guide
This hematology and bone marrow transplant (BMT) resource guide provides information about diseases and treatments, employment, insurance and more.
Matched Unrelated Donor Transplantation
Bone marrow transplantation can be performed using one's own bone marrow or by using another person's bone marrow. Learn more here.
Self-Care for Caregivers
Caregiver fatigue can be brought on by the physical and emotional demands of caring for a loved one with a serious illness. Learn tips to combat caregiver fatigue here.
Communicating with Your Doctor
The relationship with a doctor is a very personal one, built on communication and trust. In choosing a doctor, the "chemistry" between the two of you must work.
Coping with Chemotherapy
Each person experiences side effects from chemotherapy differently, and different chemotherapy drugs cause different side effects. Learn more here.
Delegation to Help with Fatigue
Fatigue caused by cancer treatment can make it difficult to accomplish even the smallest of tasks. Learn how task delegation can help with this fatigue.
Diet for Cancer Treatment Side Effects
Nausea is a common side effect of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Find practical tips and suggested foods to help with nausea here.
FAQ: Cancer Pathology Tissue Slides
Find frequently asked questions regarding cancer pathology tissue slides, such as how to obtain the slides and what to do with them once you do.
FAQ: Cancer Radiology Scans and Reports
Learn the difference between a radiology report and radiology films or scans as well as why your doctor may be requesting these scans and more.
Managing Your Treatment
Living with or caring for someone with cancer can be a full-time job. Here are some tips to reduce stress and help navigate the disease more effectively.
Nutrition and Coping with Cancer Symptoms
Side effects of cancer treatment may affect your eating pattern, requiring new ways to get the calories, protein and nutrients that you need. Learn more.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
Your time with the doctor is limited, thus it's helpful to prepare for the visit in advance by prioritizing the questions that are important to you. Learn more.
Resources for End of Life
The UCSF Cancer Resource Center has a list of bereavement support groups, counselors, hospice and others dealing with end-of-life issues. Learn more.
Tips for Conserving Your Energy
Cancer and cancer therapy can be accompanied by feelings of extreme fatigue. To help you deal with this fatigue, follow these easy tips help conserve energy.
Using a Medical Calendar and Symptom Log
Take time at the end of each day or each week to reflect back on the symptoms you've had. You can use a calendar to track your symptoms. Learn more here.
Seeking care at UCSF Health