Blood Journal
Leading the way in experimental and clinical research in hematology

How I treat POEMS syndrome

  1. Angela Dispenzieri1
  1. 1Department of Medicine and Laboratory Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN


POEMS syndrome is a paraneoplastic syndrome whose acronym stands for less than half of the defining features of the disease, that is, polyradiculoneuropathy, organomegaly, potentially including coexisting Castleman disease, endocrinopathy, monoclonal plasma cell neoplasm, and skin changes. The other important features include papilledema, extravascular volume overload, sclerotic bone lesions, thrombocytosis, elevated VEGF, and abnormal pulmonary function. The diagnosis is based on having both the polyradiculoneuropathy and the monoclonal plasma cell disorder, and at least 1 of the other 3 major criteria (Castleman disease, sclerotic bone lesions, or elevated VEGF) and at least one minor criterion. The diagnosis is often delayed with intervening incorrect diagnoses of chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy, myeloproliferative disorder, and monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance. Prompt treatment directed at the underlying plasma cell clone produces dramatic responses in the majority of patients. Although there are no randomized clinical trial data to direct best therapy, for patients with disseminated disease, high-dose chemotherapy with peripheral blood transplantation has yielded durable benefit, whereas radiation therapy is typically effective for patients with a more localized presentation. More universal recognition of and more scientific inquiry into the underpinnings of the disease will provide direction toward the best treatment strategies in the future.

  • Submitted March 13, 2012.
  • Accepted April 23, 2012.
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