JAK2 inhibitors for myeloproliferative neoplasms: what is next?

Prithviraj Bose and Srdan Verstovsek


Since its approval in 2011, the Janus kinase (JAK) 1/2 inhibitor ruxolitinib has evolved to become the centerpiece of therapy for myelofibrosis (MF), and its use in patients with hydroxyurea resistant/intolerant polycythemia vera (PV) is steadily increasing. A number of other JAK2 inhibitors have entered clinical testing, but none has been approved yet, and many discontinued. Importantly, the activity of these agents is not restricted to patients with JAK2 V617F or exon 12 mutations. Although JAK2 inhibitors provide substantial clinical benefit, their disease-modifying activity is limited, and rational combinations with other targeted agents are needed, particularly in MF, where survival is short. Many such combinations are being explored, as are other novel agents, some of which could successfully be combined with JAK2 inhibitors in the future. Additionally, new JAK2 inhibitors with the potential for less myelosuppression continue to be investigated. Given the proven safety and efficacy of ruxolitinib, it is likely that ruxolitinib-based combinations will be a major way forward in drug development for MF. If approved, less myelosuppressive JAK2 inhibitors such as pacritinib or NS-018 could prove to be very useful additions to the therapeutic armamentarium in MF. In PV, inhibitors of histone deacetylases and human double minute 2 have activity, but their role, if any, in the future treatment algorithm is uncertain, given the availability of ruxolitinib and renewed interest in interferons. Ruxolitinib is in late phase clinical trials in essential thrombocythemia (ET), where it could fill an important void for patients with troublesome symptoms.

  • Submitted April 4, 2017.
  • Accepted May 6, 2017.