Studying Pruritus: What Experts Know About Itching in MPNs

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Is there a remedy for itching in MPN patients?  Dr. Stephen Oh from Washington University School of Medicine addresses the often bothersome issue of itching in patients with myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs), particularly with polycythemia vera (PV). Dr. Oh also mentions treatments that have shown to be effective in reducing this MPN symptom.

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Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

Susan Leclair:

I’ve certainly heard from many people here about the issue of itching.  The pruritus seems to be one of the major, I think it would be better to die kind of things than go through this again.  From over-the-counter, do I sit in an oatmeal bath?  How do I handle this?  It’s just a plain old quality-of-life kind of issue, but it’s so important to so many people.

Dr. Oh: 

I can take that one. 

Susan Leclair:     

The visiting team is now up?

Dr. Oh: 

Yes.  See, itching is for some patients quite debilitating and not always the easiest to treat.  So in the case of patients with PV, phlebotomy can help.  It doesn’t always result in a substantial benefit, but certainly adequately treating the disease with phlebotomy or hydroxyurea (Hydrea), aspirin, but with those kind of standard measures, some patients still have quite substantial itching.  And that is something actually with the recent approval of ruxolitinib (Jakafi) for PV, has really been beneficial.

So itching is a symptom that tends to respond quite nicely to ruxolitinib.  So it’s not necessarily the only reason why we would consider ruxolitinib for a patient with PV, but it does result in quite substantial benefit.  But I think to just to sort of elaborate a little more on that aspect, that is an area from the biology side, we’re still trying to better understand what is the mechanism by which itching occurs. And that’s actually an interest of mine on the research side and we actually have, at Wash. U, we have a Center for the Study of Itch.  Yeah, that focuses on itch.      

And I’m actually working with a dermatologist and physician scientist there on better understanding what causes itch in these patients, which it improves with ruxolitinib or other JAK inhibitors, and can we target this more selectively.  So that’s something we’re really trying to better understand, but like I said, we already know that ruxolitinib can really address this issue.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

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Page last updated on September 8, 2015