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The reports of a unique mutation in the Janus kinase-2 gene (JAK2) in polycythemia vera by several independent groups in 2005 quickly spurred the development of the Janus kinase inhibitors. In one of the great victories of translational research in recent times, the first smallmolecule Janus kinase inhibitor ruxolitinib entered a phase I trial in 2007. With the approval of ruxolitinib by the US Federal Drug Administration in November 2011 for high-risk and intermediate-2 risk myelofibrosis, a change in paradigm has occurred in the management of a subset of myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN): primary myelofibrosis, post-polycythemia vera myelofibrosis, and post-essential thrombocythemia myelofibrosis. Whereas the current evidence for ruxolitinib only covers high-risk and intermediate-2 risk myelofibrosis, inhibitors with greater potency are likely to offer better disease control and survival advantage in patients belonging to these categories, and possibly to the low-risk and intermediate-1 risk categories of MPN as well. But use of the Janus kinase inhibitors also probably has certain disadvantages, such as toxicity, resistance, withdrawal phenomenon, non-reversal of histology, and an implausible goal of disease clone eradication, some of which could offset the gains. In spite of this, Janus kinase inhibitors are here to stay, and for use in more than just myeloproliferative neoplasms.
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