Dr. Naveen Pemmaraju recently interviewed with Targeted Oncology and discussed the many advances in myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs) treatment as well as the role of social media during the pandemic. (The complete article is available here.)
The value of medical professionals in the rare disease community receiving clinical trial updates for MPNs has become even more evident during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 was responsible for in-person medical sessions being canceled. Virtual conferences have taken over and are transmitting information about major advances in hematology and oncology.
Investigators will continue to disseminate data that may be responsible for changing the treatment of a wide variety of cancers. This would include myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs) and rare blood cancers.
Medical Reports and Workshops
Dr. Pemmaraju is co-founder of the hashtag #MPNsm which translates as MPN Social Media. Doctors throughout the world are now able to view their colleagues’ reports, articles, and opinions just by using this hashtag on Twitter.
He shared his thoughts during the interview about the ever-expanding role of social media and hematology amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Pemmaraju and colleagues also founded the Texas MPN Workshop. This is another platform that gives investigators an opportunity to collaborate in the treatment of MPN patients. He reports that over 1300 people from thirty countries participated. Their Soho meeting had over 2500 people participating. Many reported that they felt they had achieved more virtually than if they had attended in person.
About Myeloproliferative Neoplasms (MPNs)
When the body produces an excess of red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets, blood flow in the bone marrow becomes an issue resulting in blood cancers and MPN.
The primary types of MPNs are:
- Polycythemia vera – blood cancer causing the bone marrow to overproduce red blood cells
- Essential thrombocythemia – an uncommon disorder in which the body overproduces platelets
- Myelofibrosis – an uncommon form of bone marrow cancer that affects the body’s normal blood cell production
Treatment depends on the type of MPN diagnosed. Patients may live many years after diagnosis.
A portion of the interview with Dr. Pemmaraju centered around advances in MPNs and two FDA approvals of janus kinase inhibitors (JAK inhibitors): ruxolitinib and fedratinib. JAK inhibitors have therapeutic applications in treating cancer and inflammatory disorders.
Dr. Pemmaraju was asked about toxicities relating to JAK inhibitors and responded that it is critical to focus on novel and emerging toxicities.
Janus-associated kinase (JAK)/signal transducers and activators of transcription (STAT) pathway inhibitors have been found to be effective in treating myelofibrosis, in reducing enlarged spleens, and in overall survival.
The doctor noted that the researchers have had a long history with ruxolitinib and that it is well-tolerated. However, long-term research indicates that it is important to monitor the patients closely for infections.
With respect to fedratinib, Dr. Pemmaraju referenced the black box warning to alert patients about encephalopathy syndrome. He said that doctors should check thymine levels before and during therapy.
Dr. Pemmaraju’s Thoughts on Virtual Meetings
The doctor said that the virtual world has changed his own world. Where he would think nothing of getting on a plane in a day’s notice and fly anywhere in the world, all that has changed with the pandemic.
There are many good aspects of virtual meetings, but he finds as a “people person,” he misses the side meetings, brainstorming, networking, and the social aspect of in-person contact.
Nevertheless, Dr. Pemmaraju said that it has been an incredible experience being able to communicate easily through conferences in Australia, Algeria, and throughout Europe, Asia, and South America.