Ropeginterferon alpha-2b targets JAK2V617F-positive polycythemia vera cells in vitro and in vivo
Polycythemia vera is characterized by the acquisition of the JAK2V617F mutation. Recommended treatments include hydroxyurea and interferon-alpha. Several groups have reported a reduction in the JAK2 mutant allele burden in interferon-treated patients, but significance of this observation is questioned. We characterized the activity of ropeginterferon alpha-2b, a novel form of interferon-alpha recently shown to be safe and efficacious in polycythemia vera. Ropeginterferon was able to inhibit the proliferation of the HEL, UKE-1, and UT-7 JAK2-mutant cell lines while sparing JAK2-wild-type UT-7 and normal CD34+ cells growth. In vitro treatment of erythroid progenitors derived from PV patients showed that ropeginterferon could considerably inhibit the growth of endogenous erythroid colonies, a hallmark of polycythemia vera. Finally, we could study in sequential samples the clonal architecture of erythroid progenitors derived from patients included in a randomized study comparing hydroxyurea to ropeginterferon. After 1 year of treatment with ropeginterferon, the ratio of JAK2-mutated to wild-type colonies grown from bone marrow progenitors was reduced by 64%, compared to 25% in patients receiving hydroxyurea. This study shows that ropeginterferon has a potent targeted activity against JAK2-mutant cells and is able to drastically reduce the proportion of malignant progenitors in patients treated with this drug.