Background: Previous cytogenetic studies in polycythemia vera (PV) have included a relatively small number of patients (“n” ranging 10–64). In the current study (n=137), we describe cytogenetic findings at presentation and examine their relationship to clinical and laboratory features, including bone marrow JAK2V617F allele burden.

Methods: The study consisted of a consecutive group of patients with PV who fulfilled the World Health Organization (WHO) diagnostic criteria and in whom bone marrow biopsy and cytogenetic studies were performed at diagnosis.

Results I: cytogenetic details At diagnosis: A total of 137 patients (median age, 64 years; 49% females) were studied at diagnosis and had adequate metaphases for interpretation. Cytogenetics were normal in 117 patients (85%) and displayed either a sole -Y abnormality in 5 patients (7% of the male patients), and other chromosomal abnormalities in 15 (11%). The latter included trisomy 8 in five patients, trisomy 9 in three patients, two patients each with del(13q), del(20q), and abnormalities of chromosome 1, and one patient each with del(3)(p13p21), dup(13)(q12q14), and del(11)(q21). At follow-up: Repeat cytogenetic studies while still in the chronic phase of the disease were performed in 19 patients at a median of 60 months (range, 8–198) from diagnosis. Of these, 4 had aquired new cytogenetic clones including 3 with normal cytogenetics at time of initial PV diagnosis. The new abnormalities included del(20q), del(5q), del(1p), chromosome 1 abnormality, and inv(3)(q21q26.2). At time of disease transformation: Leukemic transformation was documented in 3 patients of whom cytogenetic information at the time was available in 2 patients; both patients had normal results at time of initial PV diagnosis and complex cytogenetic abnormalities at time of leukemic transformation. In contrast, among 6 patients with available cytogenetic information at time of fibrotic transformation, the results were unchanged from those obtained at time of diagnosis in 5 patients. ii) Correlation between cytogenetics at diagnosis and JAK2V617F allele burden: Allele-specific, quantitative PCR analysis for JAK2V617F was performed in 71 patients using genomic DNA from archived bone marrow obtained at the time of the initial cytogenetic studies. JAK2V617F mutation was detected in 64 of the 71 (90%) patients; median mutant allele burden was 16% (range 3–80%) without significant difference among the different cytogenetic groups: normal vs. –Y vs. other cytogenetic abnormalities (p=0.72). iii) Clinical correlates and prognostic relevance of cytogenetic findings at diagnosis: Among several parameters studied for significant correlations with cytogenetic findings at diagnosis, an association was evident only for age (p=0.02); all –Y abnormalities (n=5) as well as 13 of the 15 (87%) other cytogenetic abnormalities occurred in patients ≥ 60 years of age. Stated another way, the incidence of abnormal cytogenetics (other than -Y) was 4% for patients younger than age 60 years and 15% otherwise. The presence of abnormal cytogenetics at diagnosis had no significant impact on either overall or leukemia-free survival.

Conclusions: Abnormal cytogenetic findings at diagnosis are infrequent in PV, especially in patients below age 60 years. Furthermore, their clinical relevance is limited and there is not significant correlation with bone marrow JAK2V617F allele burden.

Author notes

Disclosure: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.