The chronic myeloproliferative disorders are clonal hematopoietic stem cell disorders and include chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), polycythemia vera (PV), essential thrombocythemia (ET), and agnogenic myeloid metaplasia (AMM). These diseases are characterized by clonal expansion of the myeloid compartment, increased marrow angiogenesis, and varying risks for blastic transformation. A clear molecular abnormality exists (t(9;22) leading to the fusion of BCR-Abl) only for CML, which led to effective targeted therapy (STI-571). Since no similar pathogenetic mechanism has been discovered for the t(9;22) negative chronic myeloproliferative disorders, their respective diagnosis is currently based on a variety of rather cumbersome diagnostic criteria. Polycythemia vera is distinguished from reactive erythrocytosis through erythropoietin independent growth of erythroid progenitors in vitro, suppressed levels of endogenous erythropoietin, possible overexpression of PRV-1 (polycythemia rubra vera-1), decreased c-Mpl expression on megakaryocytes, as well as overexpression of bcl-xL, and potentially aberrant activity of the Jak-Stat pathway. ET is defined by thrombocytosis and is distinguished from reactive states by decreased megakaryocyte c-Mpl expression, and a propensity for thrombosis. AMM has been associated with a variety of observations including increased concentrations of pro-fibrotic cytokines, increased angiogenesis, and myeloid expansion. AMM is often indistinguishable clinically and prognostically from the advanced phases of other CMPD (specifically post-polycythemic and post-thrombocythemia myeloid metaplasia), all of which are subentities of a diagnosis of myelofibrosis with myeloid metaplasia (MMM). The management of CMPD patients is quite varied given the broad range of disease severity and survival observed. The role of stem cell transplantation is limited by the age and comorbidities encountered in CMPD patients. Since no broadly applicable therapy effects the mortality of the CMPD, management currently focuses on the prevention/palliation of disease morbidity (i.e. vascular complications, pruritus, organomegaly, constitutional symptoms). Palliative strategies which currently focus on non-specific myelosuppresion, will hopefully be soon replaced by targeted therapies as insight into pathogenetic mechanisms of these diseases evolves.
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