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Blood Adv. 2019 Jun 11;3(11):1729-1737. doi: 10.1182/bloodadvances.2019000211.

Leukocytosis and thrombosis in essential thrombocythemia and polycythemia vera: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

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FROM Research Foundation, Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital, Bergamo, Italy; and.
Center for the Study of Myelofibrosis, IRCCS Policlinico San Matteo Foundation, Pavia, Italy.


In the last years, a growing amount of evidence has been produced regarding the role of leukocytosis as a risk factor for thrombosis in patients with myeloproliferative neoplasms, predominantly in polycythemia vera (PV) and essential thrombocythemia (ET). Results from epidemiologic studies on this issue, however, are inconclusive. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of articles published in the last 12 years addressing the issue, according to a predefined protocol. Forty-one articles analyzing >30 000 patients met our inclusion criteria and were deemed of acceptable methodologic quality. In addition to data on thrombosis, data were collected on bleeding, hematologic evolution, secondary cancer, and death. The relative risk (RR) of thrombosis in the presence of leukocytosis was 1.59 (95% CI, 1.40-1.80), mainly accounted for by ET (RR, 1.65; 95% CI, 1.43-1.91) and arterial thrombosis (RR, 1.45; 95% CI, 1.13-1.86) subgroups; the effect was not significant in venous thrombosis alone. Sensitivity analyses considering recurrent events as well as white blood cell estimates adjusted or unadjusted for confounding factors confirmed the primary results. In addition, the pooled RR of studies that tested white blood cell counts in time-dependent models suggested a causative effect of leukocytes in the mechanism that triggers thrombosis. The effect of leukocytosis on bleeding (RR, 1.87; 95% CI, 1.26-2.77) and death (RR, 1.89; 95% CI, 1.59-2.23) was confirmed, whereas conclusions on hematologic evolutions and solid tumors were uncertain. To confirm the accuracy of these results, an investigation on individual patient data in a large collective archive of homogeneous patients is warranted.

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