What are Myeloproliferative Neoplasms (MPNs)?

What are Myeloproliferative Neoplasms?

Myeloproliferative neoplasms refer to a group of diseases caused by bone marrow producing too many blood cells. Each blood cell type has a specific "job" to perform. When these cells are compromised by one of the disease groups, the body reacts as a defense mechanism.

Blood cell development. A blood stem cell goes through several steps to become a red blood cell, platelet, or white blood cell.

Myeloproliferative Neoplasms


Myeloproliferative neoplasms are rare and usually affect only one type of blood cell. It is uncommon for MPNs to affect more than one type of blood cell.

The most common types of MPNs are:

  • Polycythemia vera (PV): Too many red blood cells are produced in the bone marrow, making the blood thicken. White blood cells and platelets may also increase and collect in the spleen, causing it to enlarge. Bleeding problems and the formation of clots in the blood vessels can occur due to polycythemia vera.
  • Essential thrombocythemia (ET): Platelets (thrombocytes) increase in the blood. The cause of this condition is unknown.
  • Myelofibrosis (MF): This rare type of cancer causes scar tissue, also called fibrosis, to build up in the bone marrow. Consequently, blood cells can no longer be produced in the bone marrow. This leads to the production of blood cells in other organs, such as the liver and the spleen, making them enlarged.
  • Chronic myelogenous leukemia: This slow-moving cancer allows too many immature white blood cells to be produced in the bone marrow. This condition usually affects older adults and very rarely affects children.
  • Chronic neutrophilic leukemia: This disease affects the white blood cells causing the production of too many neutrophils, which then enlarges the spleen and liver. Chronic neutrophilic leukemia can remain unchanged for many years or progress rapidly into acute leukemia.
  • Chronic eosinophilic leukemia: This disease also affects the production of white blood cells (eosinophils) in the bone marrow. It can remain the same for years or quickly progress into acute leukemia.

Signs & Symptoms of Myeloproliferative Neoplasms


Some symptoms of myeloproliferative neoplasms are similar; however, some are specific to a particular disease.

Symptoms for the three main types of myeloproliferative neoplasms include:

Symptoms of polycythemia vera

Polycythemia vera is characterized by the overproduction of red blood cells. It is usually discovered during a routine blood test. As the disease progresses, the number of affected blood cells increases.

Symptoms may include:

  • Headaches
  • Feeling of fullness on the left side under the rib cage
  • Double vision
  • Itching, especially after being in warm water
  • Weakness or dizziness
  • Unexplained weight loss

Symptoms of essential thrombocythemia

Essential thrombocythemia, which allows increased platelets to form, sometimes manifests no symptoms or signs. This type of myeloproliferative neoplasm is often determined during normal blood work.

Some common symptoms are:

  • Headaches
  • Red, warm, burning, or tingling hands or feet
  • Hearing or vision problems

Symptoms of myelofibrosis

  • Easy bruising
  • Fever
  • Feeling tired and weak

Causes of Myeloproliferative Neoplasms


The exact cause of myeloproliferative neoplasms is generally unknown. However, genetics and environmental factors play a role in developing these diseases.

Risk Factors

Risk Factors

Myeloproliferative neoplasms diseases usually affect older adults. Specific factors have a higher likelihood of leading to different kinds of MPNs.

Some of the major risks associated with developing MPNs are:

  • Mutations in bone marrow stem cells: Aging can cause mutations to occur in the bone marrow stem cells in addition to impairing organ functions. These factors increase the risk of cancer.
  • Prior cytotoxic therapy: Since cytotoxic drugs cannot discriminate between normal cells and cancer cells, this type of cancer treatment continues to cause significant problems
  • Exposure to radiation: X-rays and gamma rays are known to cause cancer
  • Exposure to carcinogenic chemicals: Exposure to toxic chemicals, such as Benzene and Toluene, is a strong factor in developing MPNs
  • Autoimmunity: Those with a history of autoimmune disease have a significantly higher risk of developing myeloproliferative neoplasms
Get Care

Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Myeloproliferative Neoplasm Care

At NewYork-Presbyterian, our highly skilled and experienced medical professionals care for many patients with myeloproliferative neoplasms and pursue research to improve the understanding and treatment of these rare illnesses.

Our doctors treat all types of blood cancers. Their goal is to find a cure for your disease. It is important to know all treatment options available.