“We do not yet fully understand the biology behind why myelofibrosis advances in patients,” explained Ruben Mesa, M.D., director of UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center. “Improving our understanding can help us advance treatment beyond the current approved and investigational therapies, which are still being examined to determine how they might slow progression of disease.”
What Is Myelofibrosis?
Myelofibrosis is a rare blood cancer that starts in the stem cells of the bone marrow, leading to the production of faulty blood cells that don’t mature or function properly. Eventually, the disorder results in scarring of the bone marrow, further stifling its ability to produce healthy blood cells.
While some patients may live years without symptoms, others see their disease progress rather quickly. Without enough healthy red blood cells, these patients can develop anemia, leading to fatigue, weakness and shortness of breath. Myelofibrosis can also cause an enlarged spleen and the disorder has a higher incidence in people over age 50.
In addition to monitoring patients closely for any signs of disease progression or other conditions, physicians face the challenge of tailoring treatment. “Myelofibrosis is a variable disease,” Mesa said. “A better understanding of the role of genetic mutations that cause the cancer and refining the prognostic scores could help doctors have a much more detailed assessment of prognosis and determine which treatment options are best for each individual patient.”