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1.  Targeting hedgehog signaling in myelofibrosis and other hematologic malignancies 
Treatment of myelofibrosis (MF), a BCR-ABL–negative myeloproliferative neoplasm, is challenging. The only current potentially curative option, allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant, is recommended for few patients. The remaining patients are treated with palliative therapies to manage MF-related anemia and splenomegaly. Identification of a mutation in the Janus kinase 2 (JAK2) gene (JAK2 V617F) in more than half of all patients with MF has prompted the discovery and clinical development of inhibitors that target JAK2. Although treatment with JAK2 inhibitors has been shown to improve symptom response and quality of life in patients with MF, these drugs do not alter the underlying disease; therefore, novel therapies are needed. The hedgehog (Hh) signaling pathway has been shown to play a role in normal hematopoiesis and in the tumorigenesis of hematologic malignancies. Moreover, inhibitors of the Hh pathway have been shown to inhibit growth and self-renewal capacity in preclinical models of MF. In a mouse model of MF, combined inhibition of the Hh and JAK pathways reduced JAK2 mutant allele burden, reduced bone marrow fibrosis, and reduced white blood cell and platelet counts. Preliminary clinical data also suggest that inhibition of the Hh pathway, alone or in combination with JAK2 inhibition, may enable disease modification in patients with MF. Future studies, including one combining the Hh pathway inhibitor sonidegib and the JAK2 inhibitor ruxolitinib, are underway in patients with MF and will inform whether this combination approach can lead to true disease modification.
PMCID: PMC3975838  PMID: 24598114
Myelofibrosis; Targeted therapy; Hedgehog pathway inhibitors; Janus kinase inhibitors
2.  The evolving treatment paradigm in myelofibrosis 
Leukemia & Lymphoma  2012;54(2):242-251.
Myelofibrosis (MF) is a BCR–ABL1-negative myeloproliferative neoplasm diagnosed de novo or developed from essential thrombocythemia (ET) or polycythemia vera (PV). Average survival of a patient with MF is 5–7 years. Disease complications include fatigue, early satiety, pruritus, painful splenic infarcts, infections and leukemic transformation. Allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT) is the only potentially curative option for MF, but carries a risk of treatment-related mortality and is reserved for the few high-risk patients fit enough to endure the procedure. Other traditional therapies are palliative and supported by few randomized, controlled trials; thus, novel treatment strategies are needed. Discovery of the Janus kinase 2 (JAK2) gain-of-function mutation, JAK2V617F, in the majority (50–60%) of patients with MF led to increased understanding of the biology underlying MF and the development of JAK2 inhibitors to treat MF. Recent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of the first JAK2 inhibitor, ruxolitinib, signaled a new era for treatment of MF. Additional JAK2 inhibitors, such as SAR302503, may become commercially available in the near future, and their distinct pharmacologic and efficacy profiles will help determine their use across the patient population. Data on JAK2 inhibitors, their role in an evolving treatment paradigm, and future directions for treatment of MF are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3545544  PMID: 22793267
Dysplasias; myeloid leukemias; Janus kinase 2 (JAK2); JAK2V617F; myelofibrosis; myeloproliferative disorders; signaling therapies
3.  Splenomegaly in myelofibrosis—new options for therapy and the therapeutic potential of Janus kinase 2 inhibitors 
Splenomegaly is a common sign of primary myelofibrosis (PMF), post-polycythemia vera myelofibrosis (post-PV MF), and post-essential thrombocythemia myelofibrosis (post-ET MF) that is associated with bothersome symptoms, which have a significant negative impact on patients’ quality of life. It may also be present in patients with advanced polycythemia vera (PV) or essential thrombocythemia (ET). Until recently, none of the therapies used to treat MF were particularly effective in reducing splenomegaly. The discovery of an activating Janus kinase 2 (JAK2) activating mutation (JAK2V617F) that is present in almost all patients with PV and in about 50-60 % of patients with ET and PMF led to the initiation of several trials investigating the clinical effectiveness of various JAK2 (or JAK1/JAK2) inhibitors for the treatment of patients with ET, PV, and MF. Some of these trials have documented significant clinical benefit of JAK inhibitors, particularly in terms of regression of splenomegaly. In November 2011, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the JAK1- and JAK2-selective inhibitor ruxolitinib for the treatment of patients with intermediate or high-risk myelofibrosis, including PMF, post-PV MF, and post-ET MF. This review discusses current therapeutic options for splenomegaly associated with primary or secondary MF and the treatment potential of the JAK inhibitors in this setting.
PMCID: PMC3464878  PMID: 22852872
JAK2 inhibitor; Myeloproliferative neoplasms; Myelofibrosis; JAK2V617F mutation; Splenomegaly
4.  Myelofibrosis-associated complications: pathogenesis, clinical manifestations, and effects on outcomes 
Myelofibrosis (MF) is a rare chronic BCR-ABL1 (breakpoint cluster region-Abelson murine leukemia viral oncogene homologue 1)-negative myeloproliferative neoplasm characterized by progressive bone marrow fibrosis, inefficient hematopoiesis, and shortened survival. The clinical manifestations of MF include splenomegaly, consequent to extramedullary hematopoiesis, cytopenias, and an array of potentially debilitating abdominal and constitutional symptoms. Dysregulated Janus kinase (JAK)-signal transducer and activator of transcription signaling underlies secondary disease-associated effects in MF, such as myeloproliferation, bone marrow fibrosis, constitutional symptoms, and cachexia. Common fatal complications of MF include transformation to acute leukemia, thrombohemorrhagic events, organ failure, and infections. Potential complications from hepatosplenomegaly include portal hypertension and variceal bleeding, whereas extramedullary hematopoiesis outside the spleen and liver – depending on the affected organ – may result in intracranial hypertension, spinal cord compression, pulmonary hypertension, pleural effusions, lymphadenopathy, skin lesions, and/or exacerbation of abdominal symptoms. Although allogeneic stem cell transplantation is the only potentially curative therapy, it is suitable for few patients. The JAK1/JAK2 inhibitor ruxolitinib is effective in improving splenomegaly, MF-related symptoms, and quality-of-life measures. Emerging evidence that ruxolitinib may be associated with a survival benefit in intermediate- or high-risk MF suggests the possibility of a disease-modifying effect. Consequently, ruxolitinib could provide a treatment backbone to which other (conventional and novel) therapies may be added for the prevention and effective management of specific MF-associated complications.
PMCID: PMC3912063  PMID: 24501543
extramedullary hematopoiesis; JAK inhibitor; myelofibrosis; myeloproliferative neoplasm; ruxolitinib
5.  Comprehensive review of JAK inhibitors in myeloproliferative neoplasms 
Myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs) are clonal hematopoietic stem-cell disorders, characterized phenotypically by the abnormal accumulation of mature-appearing myeloid cells. Polycythemia vera, essential thrombocythemia, primary myelofibrosis (also known as ‘BCR-ABL1-negative’ MPNs), and chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) are the primary types of MPNs. After the discovery of the BCR-ABL1 fusion protein in CML, several oncogenic tyrosine kinases have been identified in ‘BCR-ABL1-negative’ MPNs, most importantly, JAK2V617F mutation. The similarity in the clinical characteristics of the BCR-ABL1-negative MPN patients along with the prevalence of the Janus kinase mutation in this patient population provided a strong rationale for the development of a new class of pharmacologic inhibitors that target this pathway. The first of its class, ruxolitinib, has now been approved by the food and drug administration (FDA) for the management of patients with intermediate- to high-risk myelofibrosis. Ruxolitinib provides significant and sustained improvements in spleen related and constitutional symptoms secondary to the disease. Although noncurative, ruxolitinib represents a milestone in the treatment of myelofibrosis patients. Other types of JAK2 inhibitors are being tested in various clinical trials at this point and may provide better efficacy data and safety profile than its predecessor. In this article, we comprehensively reviewed and summarized the available preclinical and clinical trials pertaining to JAK inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3629759  PMID: 23610611
primary myelofibrosis; polycythemia vera; essential thrombocythemia; Janus kinase 2
6.  Molecular Pathogenesis and Therapy of Polycythemia Induced in Mice by JAK2 V617F 
PLoS ONE  2006;1(1):e18.
A somatic activating mutation (V617F) in the JAK2 tyrosine kinase was recently discovered in the majority of patients with polycythemia vera (PV), and some with essential thrombocythemia (ET) and chronic idiopathic myelofibrosis. However, the role of mutant JAK2 in disease pathogenesis is unclear.
Methods and Findings
We expressed murine JAK2 WT or V617F via retroviral bone marrow transduction/transplantation in the hematopoietic system of two different inbred mouse strains, Balb/c and C57Bl/6 (B6). In both strains, JAK2 V617F, but not JAK2 WT, induced non-fatal polycythemia characterized by increased hematocrit and hemoglobin, reticulocytosis, splenomegaly, low plasma erythropoietin (Epo), and Epo-independent erythroid colonies. JAK2 V617F also induced leukocytosis and neutrophilia that was much more prominent in Balb/c mice than in B6. Platelet counts were not affected in either strain despite expression of JAK2 V617F in megakaryocytes and markedly prolonged tail bleeding times. The polycythemia tended to resolve after several months, coincident with increased spleen and marrow fibrosis, but was resurrected by transplantation to secondary recipients. Using donor mice with mutations in Lyn, Hck, and Fgr, we demonstrated that the polycythemia was independent of Src kinases. Polycythemia and reticulocytosis responded to treatment with imatinib or a JAK2 inhibitor, but were unresponsive to the Src inhibitor dasatinib.
These findings demonstrate that JAK2 V617F induces Epo-independent expansion of the erythroid lineage in vivo. The fact that the central erythroid features of PV are recapitulated by expression of JAK2 V617F argues that it is the primary and direct cause of human PV. The lack of thrombocytosis suggests that additional events may be required for JAK2 V617F to cause ET, but qualitative platelet abnormalities induced by JAK2 V617F may contribute to the hemostatic complications of PV. Despite the role of Src kinases in Epo signaling, our studies predict that Src inhibitors will be ineffective for therapy of PV. However, we provide proof-of-principle that a JAK2 inhibitor should have therapeutic effects on the polycythemia, and perhaps myelofibrosis and hemostatic abnormalities, suffered by MPD patients carrying the JAK2 V617F mutation.
PMCID: PMC1762384  PMID: 17183644
7.  MPLW515L Is a Novel Somatic Activating Mutation in Myelofibrosis with Myeloid Metaplasia  
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(7):e270.
The JAK2V617F allele has recently been identified in patients with polycythemia vera (PV), essential thrombocytosis (ET), and myelofibrosis with myeloid metaplasia (MF). Subsequent analysis has shown that constitutive activation of the JAK-STAT signal transduction pathway is an important pathogenetic event in these patients, and that enzymatic inhibition of JAK2V617F may be of therapeutic benefit in this context. However, a significant proportion of patients with ET or MF are JAK2V617F-negative. We hypothesized that activation of the JAK-STAT pathway might also occur as a consequence of activating mutations in certain hematopoietic-specific cytokine receptors, including the erythropoietin receptor (EPOR), the thrombopoietin receptor (MPL), or the granulocyte-colony stimulating factor receptor (GCSFR).
Methods and Findings
DNA sequence analysis of the exons encoding the transmembrane and juxtamembrane domains of EPOR, MPL, and GCSFR, and comparison with germline DNA derived from buccal swabs, identified a somatic activating mutation in the transmembrane domain of MPL (W515L) in 9% (4/45) of JAKV617F-negative MF. Expression of MPLW515L in 32D, UT7, or Ba/F3 cells conferred cytokine-independent growth and thrombopoietin hypersensitivity, and resulted in constitutive phosphorylation of JAK2, STAT3, STAT5, AKT, and ERK. Furthermore, a small molecule JAK kinase inhibitor inhibited MPLW515L-mediated proliferation and JAK-STAT signaling in vitro. In a murine bone marrow transplant assay, expression of MPLW515L, but not wild-type MPL, resulted in a fully penetrant myeloproliferative disorder characterized by marked thrombocytosis (Plt count 1.9–4.0 × 10 12/L), marked splenomegaly due to extramedullary hematopoiesis, and increased reticulin fibrosis.
Activation of JAK-STAT signaling via MPLW515L is an important pathogenetic event in patients with JAK2V617F-negative MF. The bone marrow transplant model of MPLW515L-mediated myeloproliferative disorders (MPD) exhibits certain features of human MF, including extramedullary hematopoiesis, splenomegaly, and megakaryocytic proliferation. Further analysis of positive and negative regulators of the JAK-STAT pathway is warranted in JAK2V617F-negative MPD.
Editors' Summary
Myelofibrosis with myeloid metaplasia (MF) is one of a group of chronic blood disorders, known as chronic myeloproliferative disorders. These disorders sometimes turn into acute leukemia. The main abnormality in myelofibrosis is for the bone marrow to become filled with fibrous (scar) tissue (hence the name myelofibrosis), which stops it from producing normal blood cells efficiently. In addition, the white blood cells that remain are abnormal (that is, metaplastic). The clinical effect of these abnormalities are that patients are anemic (they have low numbers of red cells), are more likely to get infections because of the abnormal white cells which cannot fight infections normally, and may bleed more easily because of a lack of the platelets that help the blood to clot. Scientists who study this disorder believe that the disease starts from just one abnormal cell, which divides to replace all the other cells—that is, all the abnormal cells are part of one clone.
Why Was This Study Done?
In two similar diseases, polycythemia vera (in which the bone marrow produces too many red blood cells) and essential thrombocytosis (in which the bone marrow produces too many platelets), and in some patients with MF, scientists have found genetic changes which seem to trigger these diseases. However, there are some patients with MF in which no abnormal gene has been found. The scientists here wanted to look at other genes to see if they could find any changes that might trigger MF.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
They decoded the DNA sequence of three genes that are known to be involved in how blood cells develop for 45 patients with MF. They looked at DNA from white blood cells, and also from normal cheek cells for comparison. They found that in four of the 45 patients the DNA in the bone marrow, but not the cheek, carried a mutation in a gene for the thrombopoietin receptor (also called MPL). This gene is necessary for the cells that make platelets to grow correctly. The mutation was not present in any samples from patients with diseases related to MF, nor in 270 normal samples. The mutation that was identified was at position 515 in the MPL gene sequence, hence the name MPLW515L—the W and the L are the shorthand way of indicating exactly which change occurred. The change meant that the gene became abnormally active. The researchers tested the effect of the abnormal gene by putting it into cells grown in culture in the laboratory; they found that it made the cells grow more than was normal. In addition, when cells with the abnormal gene were put into mice, the mice developed a blood disorder similar to that seen in humans with MF.
What Do These Findings Mean?
It seems likely that the genetic change that has been identified here is responsible for the MF that develops in some patients. The MPL gene is known to be part of a pathway of genes that control how certain blood cells develop. However, it is not yet clear exactly how the genetic change found here causes the blood cells to grow abnormally, or how it causes the other clinical effects of MF. Further work will also need to be done to see if it is possible to develop drugs that can act on this gene mutation, or on the other genes that it affects so as to return the cells to normal.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
• MedlinePlus, a Web site of the US National Library of Health, has pages of information on myelofibrosis and related diseases
• The National Cancer Institute, which funds research into many cancers, has information for patients on myelofibrosis, including information on clinical trials
• The MPD Foundation has information for patients with myelofibrosis and related diseases
Activation of JAK-STAT signaling via a mutation - MPLW515L- in the thrombopoietin receptor seems to have a role in the pathogenesis of some patients with myelofibrosis.
PMCID: PMC1502153  PMID: 16834459
8.  mTOR Inhibitors Alone and in Combination with JAK2 Inhibitors Effectively Inhibit Cells of Myeloproliferative Neoplasms 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e54826.
Dysregulated signaling of the JAK/STAT pathway is a common feature of chronic myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN), usually associated with JAK2V617F mutation. Recent clinical trials with JAK2 inhibitors showed significant improvements in splenomegaly and constitutional symptoms in patients with myelofibrosis but meaningful molecular responses were not documented. Accordingly, there remains a need for exploring new treatment strategies of MPN. A potential additional target for treatment is represented by the PI3K/AKT/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway that has been found constitutively activated in MPN cells; proof-of-evidence of efficacy of the mTOR inhibitor RAD001 has been obtained recently in a Phase I/II trial in patients with myelofibrosis. The aim of the study was to characterize the effects in vitro of mTOR inhibitors, used alone and in combination with JAK2 inhibitors, against MPN cells.
Mouse and human JAK2V617F mutated cell lines and primary hematopoietic progenitors from MPN patients were challenged with an allosteric (RAD001) and an ATP-competitive (PP242) mTOR inhibitor and two JAK2 inhibitors (AZD1480 and ruxolitinib). mTOR inhibitors effectively reduced proliferation and colony formation of cell lines through a slowed cell division mediated by changes in cell cycle transition to the S-phase. mTOR inhibitors also impaired the proliferation and prevented colony formation from MPN hematopoietic progenitors at doses significantly lower than healthy controls. JAK2 inhibitors produced similar antiproliferative effects in MPN cell lines and primary cells but were more potent inducers of apoptosis, as also supported by differential effects on cyclinD1, PIM1 and BcLxL expression levels. Co-treatment of mTOR inhibitor with JAK2 inhibitor resulted in synergistic activity against the proliferation of JAK2V617F mutated cell lines and significantly reduced erythropoietin-independent colony growth in patients with polycythemia vera.
These findings support mTOR inhibitors as novel potential drugs for the treatment of MPN and advocate for clinical trials exploiting the combination of mTOR and JAK2 inhibitor.
PMCID: PMC3561413  PMID: 23382981
9.  Biology and Clinical Management of Myeloproliferative Neoplasms and Development of the JAK Inhibitor Ruxolitinib 
Current Medicinal Chemistry  2012;19(26):4399-4413.
Myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN) are debilitating stem cell-derived clonal myeloid malignancies. Conventional treatments for the BCR-ABL1-negative MPN including polycythemia vera (PV), essential thrombocythemia (ET), and primary myelofibrosis (PMF) have, so far, been unsatisfactory. Following the discovery of dysregulated JAK-STAT signaling in patients with MPN, many efforts have been directed toward the development of molecularly targeted therapies, including inhibitors of JAK1 and JAK2. Ruxolitinib (previously known as INCB018424; Incyte Corporation, Wilmington, Delaware, USA) is a rationally designed potent oral JAK1 and JAK2 inhibitor that has undergone clinical trials in patients with PV, ET, and PMF. Ruxolitinib was approved on November 16, 2011 by the United States Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of intermediate or high-risk myelofibrosis (MF), including patients with PMF, post-PV MF, and post-ET MF. In randomized phase III studies, ruxolitinib treatment resulted in significant and durable reductions in splenomegaly and improvements in disease-related symptoms in patients with MF compared with placebo or best available therapy. The most common adverse events were anemia and thrombocytopenia, which were manageable and rarely led to discontinuation. This review addresses the cellular and molecular biology, and the clinical management of MPN.
PMCID: PMC3480698  PMID: 22830345
Essential thrombocythemia; janus kinase; JAK inhibitor; JAK-STAT; myelofibrosis; myeloproliferative neoplasms; polycythemia vera; primary myelofibrosis; quality of life; ruxolitinib; splenomegaly; symptoms.
10.  Treatment and management of myelofibrosis in the era of JAK inhibitors 
Myelofibrosis (MF) can present as a primary disorder or evolve from polycythemia vera (PV) or essential thrombocythemia (ET) to post-PV MF or post-ET MF, respectively. MF is characterized by bone marrow fibrosis, splenomegaly, leukoerythroblastosis, extramedullary hematopoiesis, and a collection of debilitating symptoms. Until recently, the therapeutic options for patients with MF consisted of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant (alloHSCT), the use of cytoreductive agents (ie, hydroxyurea), splenectomy and splenic irradiation for treatment of splenomegaly, and management of anemia with transfusions, erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs), androgens, and immunomodulatory agents. However, with increased understanding of the pathogenesis of MF resulting from dysregulated Janus kinase (JAK) signaling, new targeted JAK inhibitor therapies, such as ruxolitinib, are now available. The purpose of this article is to review the clinical features of MF, discuss the use and future of JAK inhibitors, reassess when and how to use conventional MF treatments in the context of JAK inhibitors, and provide a perspective on the future of MF treatment.
PMCID: PMC3753053  PMID: 23990704
myelofibrosis; ruxolitinib; JAK inhibitor
11.  Serious Adverse Events During Ruxolitinib Treatment Discontinuation in Patients With Myelofibrosis 
Mayo Clinic Proceedings  2011;86(12):1188-1191.
Ruxolitinib (INCB018424) is a JAK1 and JAK2 inhibitor recently evaluated for the treatment of myelofibrosis (MF) in early- and advanced-phase clinical trials. In 2 recent communications that focused on short-term and long-term ruxolitinib treatment outcome, respectively, the drug was shown to be effective in controlling constitutional symptoms and splenomegaly but was also associated with important adverse effects, including moderate to severe thrombocytopenia and anemia. The most recent of the 2 communications focused on 51 Mayo Clinic patients who participated in the original phase 1/2 ruxolitinib clinical trial and highlighted a high treatment discontinuation rate (92% after a median time of 9.2 months), primarily for loss of treatment benefit but also because of drug-associated adverse effects. The report also discussed the occurrence of sometimes severe withdrawal symptoms during ruxolitinib treatment discontinuation. This “ruxolitinib withdrawal syndrome” was characterized by acute relapse of disease symptoms, accelerated splenomegaly, worsening of cytopenias, and occasional hemodynamic decompensation, including a septic shocklike syndrome. In the current sponsor-independent analysis, we describe the details of these events in 5 severely affected cases (11%) among 47 Mayo Clinic patients with MF in whom ruxolitinib therapy had been discontinued. Our experience calls for full disclosure of the ruxolitinib withdrawal syndrome to patients with MF before initiating ruxolitinib therapy, and treatment discontinuation must be done under close physician supervision and preferably in a tapering schedule.
PMCID: PMC3228619  PMID: 22034658
12.  A phase 2 study of ruxolitinib, an oral JAK1 and JAK2 inhibitor, in patients with advanced polycythemia vera who are refractory or intolerant to hydroxyurea 
Cancer  2013;120(4):513-520.
Polycythemia vera (PV) is a myeloproliferative neoplasm associated with somatic gain-of-function mutations of Janus kinase-2 (JAK2). Therapeutic options are limited in patients with advanced disease. Ruxolitinib, an oral JAK1/JAK2 inhibitor, is active in preclinical models of PV. The long-term efficacy and safety of ruxolitinib in patients with advanced PV who are refractory or intolerant to hydroxyurea were studied in a phase 2 trial.
Response was assessed using modified European LeukemiaNet criteria, which included a reduction in hematocrit to < 45% without phlebotomy, resolution of palpable splenomegaly, normalization of white blood cell and platelet counts, and reduction in PV-associated symptoms.
Thirty-four patients received ruxolitinib for a median of 152 weeks (range, 31 weeks-177 weeks) or 35.0 months (range, 7.1 months-40.7 months). Hematocrit < 45% without phlebotomy was achieved in 97% of patients by week 24. Only 1 patient required a phlebotomy after week 4. Among patients with palpable splenomegaly at baseline, 44% and 63%, respectively, achieved nonpalpable spleen measurements at weeks 24 and 144. Clinically meaningful improvements in pruritus, night sweats, and bone pain were observed within 4 weeks of the initiation of therapy and maintained with continued treatment. Ruxolitinib treatment also reduced elevated levels of inflammatory cytokines and granulocyte activation. Thrombocytopenia and anemia were the most common adverse events. Thrombocytopenia of ≥ grade 3 or anemia of ≥ grade 3 (according to National Cancer Institute Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events, version 3.0) occurred in 3 patients each (9%) (1 patient had both) and were managed with dose modification.
Ruxolitinib was generally well tolerated and provided rapid and durable clinical benefits in patients with advanced PV who were refractory or intolerant to hydroxyurea. Cancer 2014;120:513–20. © 2013 The Authors published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of American Cancer Society.
In the current study, patients with polycythemia vera who were refractory or intolerant to hydroxyurea achieved clinically meaningful and durable benefit from treatment with ruxolitinib with respect to reductions in hematocrit, platelet and white blood cell counts, splenomegaly, and symptoms. Given the limited therapeutic options for patients with advanced polycythemia vera, these results suggest that ruxolitinib has the potential to address an important unmet medical need in this patient population.
PMCID: PMC4231215  PMID: 24258498
polycythemia vera; myeloproliferative neoplasm; ruxolitinib; Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor; phase 2
13.  Disseminated tuberculosis in a patient treated with a JAK2 selective inhibitor: a case report 
BMC Research Notes  2012;5:552.
Primary myelofibrosis is a myeloproliferative disorder characterized by bone marrow fibrosis, abnormal cytokine expression, splenomegaly and anemia. The activation of JAK2 and the increased levels of circulating proinflammatory cytokines seem to play an important role in the pathogenesis of myelofibrosis. Novel therapeutic agents targeting JAKs have been developed for the treatment of myeloproliferative disorders. Ruxolitinib (INCB018424) is the most recent among them.
Case presentation
To our knowledge, there is no evidence from clinical trials of an increased risk of tuberculosis during treatment with JAK inhibitors. Here we describe the first case of tuberculosis in a patient treated with Ruxolitinib, a male with a 12-year history of chronic idiopathic myelofibrosis admitted to our Institute because of fever, night sweats, weight loss and an enlarging mass in the left inguinal area for two months.
Treatment with Ruxolitinib may have triggered the reactivation of latent tuberculosis because of an inhibition of Th1 response. Our case highlights the importance of an accurate screening for latent tuberculosis before starting an anti-JAK 2 treatment.
PMCID: PMC3515333  PMID: 23039051
Tuberculosis; Myelofibrosis; Ruxolitinib
14.  Co-targeting the PI3K/mTOR and JAK2 signalling pathways produces synergistic activity against myeloproliferative neoplasms 
Aberrant JAK2 signalling plays a central role in myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN). JAK2 inhibitors have proven to be clinically efficacious, however, they are not mutation-specific and competent enough to suppress neoplastic clonal haematopoiesis. We hypothesized that, by simultaneously targeting multiple activated signalling pathways, MPN could be more effectively treated. To this end we investigated the efficacy of BEZ235, a dual PI3K/mTOR inhibitor, alone and in combination with the JAK1/JAK2 inhibitor ruxolitinib, in different preclinical models of MPN. Single-agent BEZ235 inhibited the proliferation and induced cell cycle arrest and apoptosis of mouse and human JAK2V617F mutated cell lines at concentrations significantly lower than those required to inhibit the wild-type counterpart, and preferentially prevented colony formation from JAK2V617F knock-in mice and patients' progenitor cells compared with normal ones. Co-treatment of BEZ235 and ruxolitinib produced significant synergism in all these in-vitro models. Co-treatment was also more effective than single drugs in reducing the extent of disease and prolonging survival of immunodeficient mice injected with JAK2V617F-mutated Ba/F3-EPOR cells and in reducing spleen size, decreasing reticulocyte count and improving spleen histopathology in conditional JAK2V617F knock-in mice. In conclusion, combined inhibition of PI3K/mTOR and JAK2 signalling may represent a novel therapeutic strategy in MPN.
PMCID: PMC4117551  PMID: 24237791
JAK2; myeloproliferative disorders; PI3K pathway; in-vivo; BEZ235
15.  Physiological Jak2V617F expression causes a lethal myeloproliferative neoplasm with differential effects on hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells 
Cancer cell  2010;17(6):584-596.
We report a Jak2V617F knock-in mouse myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN) model resembling human polycythemia vera (PV). The MPN is serially transplantable and we demonstrate that the hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) compartment has the unique capacity for disease initiation but does not have a significant selective competitive advantage over wild type HSCs. In contrast, myeloid progenitor populations are expanded and skewed towards the erythroid lineage, but cannot transplant the disease. Treatment with a JAK2 kinase inhibitor ameliorated the MPN phenotype, but did not eliminate the disease-initiating population. These findings provide insights into the consequences of JAK2 activation on HSC differentiation and function and have the potential to inform therapeutic approaches to JAK2V617F positive MPN.
The JAK2V617F mutation is a promising candidate for molecularly targeted therapy in MPN. Early data from JAK2 inhibitor clinical trials have called into question the capacity of these compounds to alter the natural history of JAK2V617F mediated MPN. Determining the effect of JAK2 inhibitors on the disease-initiating population requires a model in which the JAK2V617F allele is expressed at physiological levels in hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells, as it is in humans. Our model demonstrates that JAK2V617F causes expansion of erythroid progenitors but that only the HSC compartment can initiate disease in a transplanted mouse. We further demonstrate that the HSC compartment, the definitive target for curative therapy of JAK2V617F mediated MPN, is resistant to treatment with a JAK2 inhibitor.
PMCID: PMC2909585  PMID: 20541703
16.  Definition and management of ruxolitinib treatment failure in myelofibrosis 
Blood Cancer Journal  2014;4(12):e268-.
Ruxolitinib, a Janus kinase (JAK)-1 and JAK-2 inhibitor, is the first-in-class drug to be licensed in the United States for the treatment of high- and intermediate-risk myelofibrosis (MF). Several other JAK inhibitors are in development with some currently undergoing phase-3 clinical trial testing. None of the currently available JAK inhibitors are specific to mutant JAK2; their mechanism of action involves attenuation of JAK-STAT signaling with downregulation of proinflammatory cytokines, rather than selective suppression of the disease clone. Accordingly, while ruxolitinib and other JAK inhibitors are effective in controlling splenomegaly and alleviating constitutional symptoms, their benefit in terms of reversing bone marrow fibrosis or inducing complete or partial remissions appears to be limited. The experience to date with ruxolitinib shows that despite its salutary effects on quality of life, over half of the patients discontinue treatment within 2–3 years. In the current perspective, we examine the incidence and causes of ruxolitinib ‘treatment failure' in MF patients based on our personal experience as well as a review of the published literature. We also discuss the challenges in defining and classifying ruxolitinib failure, and within the context of several clinical scenarios, we provide recommendations for the post-ruxolitinib management of MF patients.
PMCID: PMC4315890  PMID: 25501025
17.  The clinical benefit of ruxolitinib across patient subgroups: analysis of a placebo-controlled, Phase III study in patients with myelofibrosis 
British journal of haematology  2013;161(4):508-516.
Myelofibrosis (MF) patients can present with a wide spectrum of disease characteristics. We analysed the consistency of ruxolitinib efficacy across patient subgroups in the COntrolled MyeloFibrosis Study With ORal JAK Inhibitor Treatment (COMFORT-I,) a double-blind trial, where patients with intermediate-2 or high-risk MF were randomized to twice-daily oral ruxolitinib (n = 155) or placebo (n = 154). Subgroups analysed included MF subtype (primary, post-polycythaemia vera, post-essential thrombocythaemia), age (≤65, > 65 years), International Prognostic Scoring System risk group, baseline Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status (0, 1, ≥2), JAK2 V617F mutation (positive, negative), baseline haemoglobin level (≥100, <100 g/l), baseline platelet count (100–200 × 109/l, >200 × 109/l), baseline palpable spleen size (≤10, >10 cm), and baseline quartile of spleen volume and Total Symptom Score (TSS; Q1 = lowest, Q4 = highest). Mean percentage change from baseline to week 24 in spleen volume and TSS were calculated for ruxolitinib and placebo in each subgroup. Overall survival was estimated by Kaplan–Meier method according to original randomization group. In ruxolitinib-treated patients, reductions in spleen volume and TSS and evidence of improved survival relative to placebo across subgroups were consistent with those seen in the COMFORT-I population, confirming that ruxolitinib is an effective therapy for the spectrum of MF patients studied in COMFORT-I.
PMCID: PMC4055021  PMID: 23480528
Myelofibrosis; ruxolitinib; subgroups; spleen volume; symptoms
18.  JAKpot! New small molecules in autoimmune and inflammatory diseases 
Experimental dermatology  2014;23(1):10.1111/exd.12265.
Cytokines are key mediators of the development and homeostasis of hematopoietic cells, critical for host defense, but also for the development of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases like psoriasis or rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Blocking cytokines activity by interfering with the ligand-receptor association has been successfully employed to treat several immune disorders. A subgroup of cytokines signals through receptors requiring the association with a family of cytoplasmic protein tyrosine kinases known as Janus kinases (Jaks). Jaks have recently gained significant attention as therapeutic targets in inflammation and autoimmunity and several Jak inhibitory small molecules have been developed. The first two Jak inhibitors, tofacitinib and ruxolitinib, have been approved for the treatment of RA and primary myelofibrosis, respectively. Efficacy and safety data suggest that some of these oral Jak inhibitors as well as their topical formulations may soon enter the daily clinical practice for treating patients with psoriasis, lupus erythematosus or other inflammatory skin diseases. While biologics typically target one single cytokine, these new immunomodulators can inhibit signals from multiple cytokines intracellularly and therefore could be useful when other therapies are ineffective. Thus, Jak inhibitors may replace some traditional immunosuppressive agents and help patients not responding to previous therapies.
PMCID: PMC3877164  PMID: 24131352
19.  Effect of NS-018, a selective JAK2V617F inhibitor, in a murine model of myelofibrosis 
Blood Cancer Journal  2014;4(1):e174-.
A single somatic mutation, V617F, in Janus kinase 2 (JAK2) is one of the causes of myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs), including primary myelofibrosis, and the JAK2V617F mutant kinase is a therapeutic target in MPN. However, inhibition of wild-type (WT) JAK2 can decrease the erythrocyte or platelet (PLT) count. Our selective JAK2 inhibitor, NS-018, suppressed the growth of Ba/F3 cells harboring JAK2V617F more strongly than that of cells harboring WT JAK2. The 4.3-fold JAK2V617F selectivity of NS-018 is higher than the 1.0- to 2.9-fold selectivity of seven existing JAK2 inhibitors. NS-018 also inhibited erythroid colony formation in JAK2V617F transgenic mice at significantly lower concentrations than in WT mice. In keeping with the above results, in a JAK2V617F bone marrow transplantation mouse model with a myelofibrosis-like disease, NS-018 reduced leukocytosis and splenomegaly, improved bone marrow fibrosis and prolonged survival without decreasing the erythrocyte or PLT count in the peripheral blood. By exploring the X-ray co-crystal structure of NS-018 bound to JAK2, we identified unique hydrogen-bonding interactions between NS-018 and Gly993 as a plausible explanation for its JAK2V617F selectivity. These results suggest that NS-018 will have therapeutic benefit for MPN patients through both its efficacy and its reduced hematologic adverse effects.
PMCID: PMC3913942  PMID: 24413068
JAK2; V617F; myelofibrosis; kinase inhibitor; NS-018
20.  A potential role of ruxolitinib in leukemia 
An increased understanding of cellular signaling pathways, like the JAK--STAT pathway, and the identification of the JAK2 V617F mutation in the classic Philadelphia chromosome-negative myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs), has generated great interest in the development of targeted JAK2 inhibitors. In a recently completed Phase I--II study, ruxolitinib, a selective orally available JAK1 and JAK2 inhibitor, has shown efficacy in patients with advanced myelofibrosis. Constitutive activation of the JAK--STAT pathway has also been implicated in other hematological malignancies suggesting a potential role of JAK kinase inhibitors in these malignancies.
Areas covered
This article reviews the chemistry, pharmacodynamics, pharmacokinetics, clinical efficacy, safety and tolerability of ruxolitinib. The literature for this article was retrieved from PubMed database searches using the keywords ‘ruxolitinib’, ‘INCB 018424’, ‘JAK2 inhibitors’ and ‘leukemia’.
Expert opinion
The JAK--STAT signaling pathway plays a vital role in leukemogenesis. Ruxolitinib, a potent JAK1 and JAK2 inhibitor, known to decrease spleen size and alleviate constitutional symptoms in myelofibrosis, represents a potentially promising agent for the treatment of leukemias by inhibiting the JAK--STAT signaling. Further studies of ruxolitinib, in patients with acute and chronic leukemias, are now needed to establish the clinical usefulness of this promising drug.
PMCID: PMC4143907  PMID: 21635221
INCB 018424; JAK2 inhibitors; leukemia; ruxolitinib
21.  Ruxolitinib for the treatment of myelofibrosis: its clinical potential 
Ruxolitinib is an orally bioavailable, selective Janus kinase (JAK) 1 and 2 inhibitor approved for the treatment of myelofibrosis (MF), a bone marrow disease in which the JAK pathway is dysregulated, leading to impaired hematopoiesis and immune function. By inhibiting JAK1 and JAK2, ruxolitinib modulates cytokine-stimulated intracellular signaling. In a phase II clinical trial in patients with MF, ruxolitinib recipients exhibited durable reductions in spleen size, reductions in circulating pro-inflammatory cytokines, improvements in physical activity, weight gain, and alleviation of symptoms (including constitutional symptoms) in patients with and without JAK2 mutation. These findings were confirmed by two phase III clinical MF studies, in which a greater proportion of ruxolitinib recipients achieved a spleen volume reduction of ≥35% from baseline at week 24, compared with placebo in one study (41.9% versus 0.7%; P < 0.0001) and with best available therapy in the other (31.9% versus 0%; P < 0.0001). Alleviation of MF symptoms and improvements in quality of life were also significantly greater in ruxolitinib recipients. Overall survival of patients treated with ruxolitinib was significantly longer than of those receiving the placebo. Owing to risks of potentially serious adverse effects, eg, myelosuppression, ruxolitinib should be used under close physician supervision. Longer follow-up of the phase III MF studies is needed to reach firm conclusions regarding ruxolitinib’s capacity to modify the natural disease course.
PMCID: PMC3295626  PMID: 22399854
myelofibrosis; JAK2 inhibitor; ruxolitinib
22.  Combined Targeting of JAK2 and Bcl-2/Bcl-xL to Cure Mutant JAK2-Driven Malignancies and Overcome Acquired Resistance to JAK2 Inhibitors 
Cell Reports  2013;5(4):1047-1059.
To design rational therapies for JAK2-driven hematological malignancies, we functionally dissected the key survival pathways downstream of hyperactive JAK2. In tumors driven by mutant JAK2, Stat1, Stat3, Stat5, and the Pi3k and Mek/Erk pathways were constitutively active, and gene expression profiling of TEL-JAK2 T-ALL cells revealed the upregulation of prosurvival Bcl-2 family genes. Combining the Bcl-2/Bcl-xL inhibitor ABT-737 with JAK2 inhibitors mediated prolonged disease regressions and cures in mice bearing primary human and mouse JAK2 mutant tumors. Moreover, combined targeting of JAK2 and Bcl-2/Bcl-xL was able to circumvent and overcome acquired resistance to single-agent JAK2 inhibitor treatment. Thus, inhibiting the oncogenic JAK2 signaling network at two nodal points, at the initiating stage (JAK2) and the effector stage (Bcl-2/Bcl-xL), is highly effective and provides a clearly superior therapeutic benefit than targeting just one node. Therefore, we have defined a potentially curative treatment for hematological malignancies expressing constitutively active JAK2.
Graphical Abstract
•Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL are the key survival factors downstream of oncogenic JAK2•Combined targeting of JAK2 and Bcl-2/Bcl-xL is highly efficacious in vivo•Combination therapy is well tolerated in preclinical models of JAK2-driven ALL•Combination therapy can overcome and circumvent resistance to JAK2 inhibitors
Better therapeutic options are required for mutant JAK2-driven hemopoietic malignancies to overcome intrinsic and acquired therapy resistance. Johnstone and colleagues functionally dissect signaling pathways downstream of hyperactive JAK2 and define the STAT5-Bcl-2/Bcl-xL axis as crucial for tumor cell survival and development of acquired JAK inhibitor resistance. Combined inhibition of this oncogenic JAK2 signaling network at two critical points—JAK2 and Bcl-2/Bcl-xL—proved highly efficacious in vivo and was able to circumvent and overcome acquired resistance to single-agent JAK inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3898474  PMID: 24268771
23.  How I treat splenomegaly in myelofibrosis 
Blood Cancer Journal  2011;1(10):e37-.
Symptomatic splenomegaly, a frequent manifestation of myelofibrosis (MF), represents a therapeutic challenge. It is frequently accompanied by constitutional symptoms and by anemia or other cytopenias, which make treatment difficult, as the latter are often worsened by most current therapies. Cytoreductive treatment, usually hydroxyurea, is the first-line therapy, being effective in around 40% of the patients, although the effect is often short lived. The immunomodulatory drugs, such as thalidomide or lenalidomide, rarely show a substantial activity in reducing the splenomegaly. Splenectomy can be considered in patients refractory to drug treatment, but the procedure involves substantial morbidity as well as a certain mortality risk and, therefore, patient selection is important. For patients not eligible for splenectomy, transient relief of the symptoms can be obtained with local radiotherapy that, in turn, can induce severe and long-lasting cytopenias. Allogeneic hemopoietic stem cell transplantation is the only treatment with the potential for curing MF but, due to its associated morbidity and mortality, is usually restricted to a minority of patients with poor risk features. A new class of drugs, the JAK2 inhibitors, although also palliative, are promising in the splenomegaly of MF and will probably change the therapeutic algorithm of this disease.
PMCID: PMC3255257  PMID: 22829071
myelofibrosis; therapy; splenomegaly; splenectomy; JAK2 inhibitors
24.  Efficacy of NS-018, a potent and selective JAK2/Src inhibitor, in primary cells and mouse models of myeloproliferative neoplasms 
Blood Cancer Journal  2011;1(7):e29-.
Aberrant activation of Janus kinase 2 (JAK2) caused by somatic mutation of JAK2 (JAK2V617F) or the thrombopoietin receptor (MPLW515L) plays an essential role in the pathogenesis of myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs), suggesting that inhibition of aberrant JAK2 activation would have a therapeutic benefit. Our novel JAK2 inhibitor, NS-018, was highly active against JAK2 with a 50% inhibition (IC50) of <1 n, and had 30–50-fold greater selectivity for JAK2 over other JAK-family kinases, such as JAK1, JAK3 and tyrosine kinase 2. In addition to JAK2, NS-018 inhibited Src-family kinases. NS-018 showed potent antiproliferative activity against cell lines expressing a constitutively activated JAK2 (the JAK2V617F or MPLW515L mutations or the TEL–JAK2 fusion gene; IC50=11–120 n), but showed only minimal cytotoxicity against most other hematopoietic cell lines without a constitutively activated JAK2. Furthermore, NS-018 preferentially suppressed in vitro erythropoietin-independent endogenous colony formation from polycythemia vera patients. NS-018 also markedly reduced splenomegaly and prolonged the survival of mice inoculated with Ba/F3 cells harboring JAK2V617F. In addition, NS-018 significantly reduced leukocytosis, hepatosplenomegaly and extramedullary hematopoiesis, improved nutritional status, and prolonged survival in JAK2V617F transgenic mice. These results suggest that NS-018 will be a promising candidate for the treatment of MPNs.
PMCID: PMC3255248  PMID: 22829185
myeloproliferative neoplasm; JAK2; Src; kinase inhibitor
25.  AKT is a therapeutic target in myeloproliferative neoplasms 
Leukemia  2013;27(9):1882-1890.
The majority of patients with BCR-ABL1-negative myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN) harbor mutations in JAK2 or MPL, which lead to constitutive activation of the JAK/STAT, PI3K, and ERK signaling pathways. JAK inhibitors by themselves are inadequate in producing selective clonal suppression in MPN and are associated with hematopoietic toxicities. MK-2206 is a potent allosteric AKT inhibitor that was well tolerated, including no evidence of myelosuppression, in a phase I study of solid tumors. Herein, we show that inhibition of PI3K/AKT signaling by MK-2206 affected the growth of both JAK2V617F or MPLW515L-expressing cells via reduced phosphorylation of AKT and inhibition of its downstream signaling molecules. Moreover, we demonstrate that MK-2206 synergizes with Ruxolitinib in suppressing the growth of JAK2V617F mutant SET2 cells. Importantly MK-2206 suppressed colony formation from hematopoietic progenitor cells in patients with primary myelofibrosis (PMF) and alleviated hepatosplenomegaly and reduced megakaryocyte burden in the bone marrows, livers and spleens of mice with MPLW515L-induced MPN. Together, these findings establish AKT as a rational therapeutic target in the MPNs.
PMCID: PMC4023863  PMID: 23748344
Myelofibrosis; PI3K; MPL; JAK2

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