Neutrophilic leukocytosis in advanced stage polycythemia vera: Hematopathologic features and prognostic implications
Polycythemia vera in 20-30% of cases progresses towards post-polycythemic myelofibrosis, an advanced phase characterized by decreased red blood cells counts and increasing splenomegaly with extramedullary hematopoiesis. There is evidence that the presence of neutrophilic leukocytosis at polycythemia vera disease outset is associated with an increased risk of recurrent thrombosis. However, its clinical significance when developing later in the course of the disease is not well defined. Over a period of 8 years we identified from the files of two reference centers 10 patients (7M/3F, median age: 68 years) who developed persistent absolute leukocytosis ≥13 × 10(9)/l (median: 25.1 × 10(9)/l; range: 16.1-89.7 × 10(9)/l) at or around the time of diagnosis of post-polycythemic myelofibrosis (median interval from diagnosis:0 months; range: -6/31) and persisted for a median period of 13 months. Peripheral blood smears showed numerous neutrophils without dysplastic features and, in four, ≥10% immature myeloid precursors. In five cases, corresponding marrow specimens obtained at or immediately after the onset of leukocytosis showed a markedly increased myeloid:erythroid ratio due to granulocytic proliferation. No change in JAK2 and BCR-ABL1 status or cytogenetic evolution was associated with the development of leukocytosis. The mutational status of CSF3R, SETBP1, and SRSF2, genes associated with other chronic myeloid neoplasms where neutrophilic leukocytosis occurs, was investigated but all cases showed wild-type only alleles. Four patients died after developing leukocytosis and one experienced worsening disease. Compared with a control group of post-polycythemic myelofibrosis patients (n=23) who never developed persistent leukocytosis, patients with leukocytosis showed higher white blood cells counts and a shorter overall survival. This is the first study describing the development of significant neutrophilic leukocytosis during advanced stages of polycythemia vera; it includes comprehensive hematologic, marrow morphological, molecular, and clinical data. Our findings suggest that persistent leukocytosis occurring at or around the time of progression to post-polycythemic myelofibrosis is associated with an overall more aggressive course of the disease.