Severe Itching Remains an MPN Research Challenge

  • MPNRF | April 23, 2024

    This spring allergy season, if you suffer from the distraction and annoyance of itchy eyes or nose, imagine that intense itch across your entire body – every day of the year. That’s what many people living with polycythemia vera (PV) and other MPNs experience.

    Severe, recurrent MPN-related pruritus (the condition of itching) can have a major impact on quality of life, and symptom-relief for these patients becomes an urgent medical need.  

     A study in Sweden published in Hematologica* late last year describes success with omalizumab, a humanized monoclonal immunoglobulin E antibody widely used for other indications since FDA approval in 2003. The investigators propose that it could be a valuable addition to the treatment arsenal for the management of refractory (resistant), chronic pruritus in MPNs. 

    Why is this finding important when interferons, ruxolitinib, hydroxyurea, and other MPN therapies often relieve even severe itching? “Despite numerous alternatives, MPN-related pruritis (refractory to current treatments) remains a clinical challenge,” according to the study authors. “In addition, pruritus may occur in younger individuals with low risk of thrombosis (blood clots), where cytoreduction (reduction of blood cells) is not otherwise indicated, or in patients with intolerance to available cytoreductive therapies.”  

    There remains a clinical need to find new approaches to alleviate MPN-related pruritis, as for many patients the severe itching – often intensified by contact with water – interferes with proper hygiene, socialization, depression, and more.