Using Interferon as a Therapy in the Treatment of MPNs

By David Boule
President, CR&T

I was first diagnosed in 2006 with Polycythemia Vera (PV), one of three related blood cancers known as Myeloproliferative Neoplasms (MPNs). Following my diagnosis, I did what many patients in the internet age do—I researched and read everything I could about my disease. 

Over the course of my research, it became obvious that Dr. Richard T. Silver was one of the most prolific authors of scientific articles published in prestigious medical journals dealing with MPN patient care. Dr. Silver has been at the forefront of MPN research and treatment for many years, and he has been my hematologist since I discovered him in 2007. Funded by CR&T, he pioneered the use of interferon as a therapy in the treatment of MPNs.

Dave Boule & Dr. Silver

PV is a disease of the bone marrow, which causes too many blood cells to be produced. In my case, red and white blood cells and platelet counts were all very high. The mutated gene, JAK2, is highly associated with PV patients—almost all have this mutation. My level of mutated genes was also very high, well over 90%. 

When I first saw Dr. Silver, it was clear that my disease was very aggressive. At the time, I was getting a phlebotomy every 5 weeks, which is one of the accepted therapies in the management of PV. (A phlebotomy is the same as giving a pint of blood and it reduces the number of red blood cells. If left unchecked, these cells produce an unacceptable risk of thrombosis.) Unfortunately, this therapy manages the symptoms (high red blood cell counts), but does nothing to reduce the disease, which manifests itself in fibrosis (scarring) of the bone marrow.

Dr. Silver prescribed Pegasys, a form of interferon that is time-released and better tolerated than other forms of interferon.  His vast experience with the therapy has resulted in dozens of peer-reviewed papers on the subject, and has allowed him to refine the therapy over the years.  He now prescribes a very low dose at the start of therapy and increases it gradually to allow patients to build up a tolerance to the medication. 

Over the last 7 years, my phlebotomy requirements have steadily declined and in the last 12 months I have had no phlebotomies. Additionally, my JAK2 mutations have started to decline. Both of these changes indicate the disease is being held in check or improving. 

As a result of Dr. Silver's treatment, my health and quality of life are terrific and I'm enjoying my grandkids every day! Thank you Dr. Silver!