Background: In essential thrombocythemia (ET), homozygosity for the JAK2 V617F mutant allele is rare despite the frequent (23–57%) occurrence of the heterozygous state. This is in direct contrast with the situation in polycythemia vera (PV) where homozygosity for the mutation is seen in 25–33% of the cases. The particular observation is consistent with what has been observed in vitro as well as in animal studies where JAK2 V617F has been associated with induction of erythropoietin hypersensitivity in cell lines and erythrocytosis in mice (

James et al.
). Therefore, regardless of whether or not JAK2 V617F represents a primary event in myeloproliferative disorders, it is probable that it promotes a PV phenotype. In the current study, we explore this hypothesis as well as investigate the long-term prognostic relevance of the mutation in a well defined cohort of patients with ET seen at a single institution.

Methods: The diagnosis of ET was according to the WHO classification of tumors (Jaffe ES et al. Lyon, IARC press, 2001). All patients were seen at the Mayo Clinic and patient characteristics and subsequent clinical events were determined both retrospectively (chart review) and prospectively (by means of a questionnaire sent both to patients and their primary doctors). In addition date and cause of death were confirmed by probing both the social security index and the national death index. DNA for mutation screening was derived and sequenced from either archived unsorted cells from the bone marrow or prospectively collected peripheral blood granulocytes according to previously published methods (

Levine et al.
Cancer Cell

Results: The study cohort consisted of 150 consecutive patients with ET including 99 females and 51 males (median age 49.8 years; range 16.8–98). Overall, JAK2 V617F was detected in 73 patients (48.7%) but none were homozygous for the mutant allele. At diagnosis, ET patients with JAK2 V617F were significantly older (median age of 53.5 vs. 42.3; p=0.02) and also displayed higher readings of both hemoglobin level (p=0.0002) and leukocyte count (p=0.005).

All study patients have now been followed for a median of 11.4 years from diagnosis (range 0–32.7) and follow-up period was similar between the two mutational categories (p=0.53). During this period, 32 patients have died and the median survival for the entire group was 19.3 years; 21.9 and 17.7 years in the absence and presence of the mutation, respectively (p=0.09). Disease transformation into acute leukemia, myelofibrosis, and PV occurred in 6 (4%), 15 (10%), and 8 (5.3%) patients, respectively, and the only significant difference between the two mutational categories in this regard was the higher incidence of transformation into PV in patients with the mutation (p=0.02). Multivariate analysis identified age, hemoglobin level, and thrombosis history at diagnosis but not JAK2 V617F mutational status as independent risk factors for survival.

Conclusion: Although the presence of JAK2 V617F in ET appears to promote a PV phenotype, it might not carry treatment-relevant information.

Author notes

Corresponding author