Essential thrombocythaemia (ET) is one of the chronic myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN), along with polycythaemia vera (PV), primary myelofibrosis (PMF) and chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML). Their common feature is excessive proliferation of a certain stem or progenitor cell in the bone marrow; in the case of ET, the megakaryocytic lineage is affected. Clinical manifestations include thrombotic events and haemorrhage. Diagnosis of ET according to new WHO-criteria requires a sustained high platelet count, bone marrow biopsy showing proliferation of the megakaryocytic lineage with large and mature morphology, demonstration of JAK2 V617F (although only present in about 50% of patients with ET) or another clonal marker and explicit exclusion of other myeloid and myeloproliferative neoplasms as well as signs of reactive thrombocytosis. Additionally, spontaneous proliferation of megakaryocytes obtained from peripheral blood can be detected in in vitro culture assays. Presently, we use agar as a matrix for megakaryocyte cultivation, although this assay has never been validated in connection with ET. The identification of megakaryocytic colonies grown on agar can sometimes be quite difficult. Our aims were therefore to technically evaluate the use of a collagen based matrix and to investigate its suitability to identify patients with ET.
We have examined 63 patients (26 with ET, 21 with PV, 8 with myelofibrosis [MF; including PMF and post-ET/PV-MF], 6 with secondary or idiopathic erythrocytosis and 2 with secondary thrombocytosis; mean age=59.8, male=33, female=30, mean platelet count 457 G/l) and 5 healthy subjects. Following informed consent, both clinical and laboratory data was collected. Medication intake, phlebotomies, smoking habits and regular haemogram results were noted in order to recognise possible confounding factors influencing laboratory results.
of megakaryocyte cultivation on both agar and collagen matrixes were recorded, considering both spontaneous growth and growth stimulated by megakaryocyte derived growth factor (MDGF).
Based on our collagen culture results we were able to define 2 or more spontaneously grown megakaryocyte colonies as the most optimal cut-off for the identification of patients with MPN (sensitivity 71%, specificity 100% with positive and negative predictive values of 100% and 45%, respectively). Compared to the agar culture results (where a specificity and a positive predictive value of 100% were demonstrated at a cut-off value of ≥ 10 CFU-Mega) we found a higher accuracy and better reproducibility. In addition, we observed an improved negative predictive value (45% with collagen versus 25% with agar cultures) reducing false negative results. Healthy subjects and patients with secondary thrombocytosis showed no significant spontaneous megakaryocyte proliferation. In patients with MF, we observed strong spontaneous and MDGF-stimulated growth of megakaryocytic colonies. At a cut-off value of ≥ 50 CFU-Mega (after stimulation with MDGF), the collagen assay showed a sensitivity of 100% and a specifity of 70% for this special form of MPN, resulting in a negative predictive value of 100%. We found no confounding clinical or laboratory parameters such as medication intake (particularly cytoreductive treatment with hydroxyurea) or phlebotomies influencing our culture results, and no significant effect of the Jak2-V617F mutation on the growth behaviour of megakaryocytic colonies.
The results of this ongoing study imply that the collagen based assay is more sensitive, specific, time efficient and user friendly regarding the detection of spontaneous proliferation of megakaryocytes than the currently used agar based culture assay. In addition, the collagen based assay also has the great advantage that it allows isolation of single megakaryocytic colonies for further analyses, for example PCR-based identification of a JAK2 mutation. Furthermore, the collagen based assay facilitates the diagnosis of patients with MPN, especially in cases where conventional diagnostic criteria are lacking, such as in ET without a JAK2 mutation. Ultimately, the new assay may well be able to detect transformation from PV/ET to MF.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.
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