Background: Anemia is one of the most prominent symptoms in primary myelofibrosis (PMF) and is often associated with inferior quality of life and survival. Current drugs, including JAK inhibitors, are suboptimal in the treatment of PMF-associated anemia and better information on its pathogenesis is critical for the development of more effective drugs. In the current study of JAK2/CALR/MPL annotated patients with PMF, we examined its correlation with both "driver" and "non-driver mutations", as well as cytogenetic abnormalities, in order to gain better insight into its pathogenesis.

Methods: Study patients were selected based on availability of "driver" mutation information. PMF diagnosis was according to World Health Organization criteria (Blood. 2009;114:937). Previously published methods were used for CALR, JAK2 and MPL mutation analyses and determination of CALR variants (Blood. 2014;124:2465). Considering their relatively high mutational frequency in PMF, subsets of patients were also screened for ASXL1, spliceosome component (SF3B1, U2AF1, SRSF2, ZRSR2) and TET2 mutations. Cytogenetic analysis and reporting was done according to the International System for Human Cytogenetic Nomenclature. Statistical analyses considered clinical and laboratory parameters obtained at time of first referral at the Mayo Clinic.

Results: Analysis was conducted on 722 patients (median age 64 years; 64% males). DIPSS-plus risk distribution was 14% low, 17% intermediate-1, 37% intermediate-2 and 33% high. All patients were annotated for JAK2/CALR/MPL mutations as well as CALR variants; 477 harbored JAK2, 139 CALR and 41 MPL mutations; 65 patients were triple-negative. The 139 CALR -mutated patients included type 1/type 1-like (n =115) and type 2/type 2-like (n =24). Non-driver mutations screened included ASXL1 (n =480; mutated 38%), SRSF2 (n =474; mutated 14%), U2AF1 (n =457; mutated 16%), SF3B1 (n =328; mutated 8%), ZRSR2 (n =180; mutated 11%) and TET2 (n =180; mutated 18%). Karyotype was normal in 60%, favorable in 28% and unfavorable in 12%.

Anemia was defined as being absent (normal sex-adjusted hemoglobin level; n =110; 15%), mild (hemoglobin level of ≥10 g/dL but below sex-adjusted normal value; n =263; 36%), moderate (hemoglobin level below 10 g/dL but not transfusion-dependent; n =108; 15%) and severe (transfusion-dependent anemia; n =241; 33%).

Presence of at least mild anemia was associated with abnormal karyotype (p=0.006) with no difference between favorable and unfavorable abnormalities, U2AF1 (p=0.002), TET2 (p=0.02) and ASXL1 (p=0.04) mutations; other significant associations included male sex and older age. Presence of moderate to severe anemia was associated with U2AF1 (p<0.0001), SRSF2 (p=0.007) and driver mutations other than CALR type 1/type 1-like (p<0.0001). Presence of severe anemia was associated with U2AF1 (p<0.0001), SRSF2 (p=0.003) and non-CALR driver mutations (17% incidence in both types of CALR variants vs 51% in triple negative, 35% JAK2, 39% MPL mutated cases; p<0.0001). An association with older age but not gender was also noted for both moderate to severe and severe anemia (p<0.0001). During multivariable analysis, independent associations with moderate to severe anemia were confirmed for U2AF1 (p<0.0001), SRSF2 (p=0.007) and age (p=0.0001), but not driver mutation profile (p=0.30). A similar analysis for severe anemia also identified U2AF1, SRSF2 and age as being significantly relevant.

Conclusions: The current study identifies older age and the spliceosomal mutations U2AF1 and SRSF2 as having strong and independent association with moderate to severe anemia in PMF. Targeting the spliceosome machinery or its mutant components offers a potential approach in the treatment of PMF-associated anemia.


Pardanani:Stemline: Research Funding.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.