The Polycythemia Vera Study Group (PVSG) and WHO classifications distinguished the Philadelphia (Ph1) chromosome-positive chronic myeloid leukemia from the Ph1-negative myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN) essential thrombocythemia (ET), polycythemia vera (PV) and primary myelofibrosis (MF) or primary megakaryocytic granulocytic myeloproliferation (PMGM). Half of PVSG/WHO-defined ET patients show low serum erythropoietin levels and carry the JAK2V617F mutation, indicating prodromal PV. The positive predictive value of a JAK2V617F PCR test is 95% for the diagnosis of PV, and about 50% for ET and MF. The WHO-defined JAK2V617F-positive ET comprises three ET phenotypes at clinical and bone marrow level when the integrated WHO and European Clinical, Molecular and Pathological (ECMP) criteria are applied: normocellular ET (WHO-ET), hypercellular ET due to increased erythropoiesis (prodromal PV) and hypercellular ET associated with megakaryocytic granulocytic myeloproliferation (EMGM). Four main molecular types of clonal MPN can be distinguished: JAK2V617F-positive ET and PV; JAK2 wild-type ET carrying the MPL515; mutations in the calreticulin (CALR) gene in JAK2/MPL wild-type ET and MF, and a small proportion of JAK2/MPL/CALR wild-type ET and MF patients. The JAK2V617F mutation load is low in heterozygous normocellular WHO-ET. The JAK2V617F mutation load in hetero-/homozygous PV and EMGM is clearly related to MPN disease burden in terms of splenomegaly, constitutional symptoms and fibrosis. The JAK2 wild-type ET carrying the MPL515 mutation is featured by clustered small and giant megakaryocytes with hyperlobulated stag-horn-like nuclei, in a normocellular bone marrow (WHO-ET), and lacks features of PV. JAK2/MPL wild-type, CALR mutated hypercellular ET associated with PMGM is featured by dense clustered large immature dysmorphic megakaryocytes and bulky (cloud-like) hyperchromatic nuclei, which are never seen in WHO-ECMP-defined JAK2V617F mutated ET, EMGM and PV, and neither in JAK2 wild-type ET carrying the MPL515 mutation. Two thirds of JAK2/MPL wild-type ET and MF patients carry one of the CALR mutations as the cause of the third distinct MPN entity. WHO-ECMP criteria are recommended to diagnose, classify and stage the broad spectrum of MPN of various molecular etiologies.

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