Results from a new trial sponsored by the Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit at University of Birmingham have found that ruxolitinib is better for treating patients with polycythaemia vera (PV) than the existing treatments.

PV is an incurable blood cancer and part of some conditions that affect the blood called myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs).

During the Phase II MAJIC-PV randomised trial, researchers studied ruxolitinib in patients who do not respond well to first line treatment.

Altogether, 180 PV patients were included in the trial, which saw the participation of various hospitals under the co-ordination of the Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit.

The researchers compared the ruxolitinib drug and existing therapies.

Ruxolitinib has been designed to target JAK2 and already approved for use in PV. However, the drug is not available in the UK.

Data from the trial showed that ruxolitinib led to better disease control with normal blood counts and a minimised spleen size.

It was also found that both controlling the blood count and minimising mutated JAK2 by 50% led to fewer disease related events.

Furthermore, patients with reduced JAK2 mutation survived longer and had lower disease progression risk.

University of Birmingham Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit director Pamela Kearns said: “Working on new treatments for incurable cancers is just the kind of thing that the Birmingham Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit is about.

“I am really pleased that this important clinical trial has found that ruxolitinib has long-term clinical benefit for the ongoing treatment of patients with PV, and that further trials will be able to identify whether the drug can be used as an effective first line treatment.”