Blood cancer drug associated with weight gain and hypertension

The results of a new retrospective, real-world study lend strength to the known association between ruxolitinib use and significant weight gain, increased systolic blood pressure and increased liver enzyme levels.

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Ruxolitinib was the first US FDA-approved drug for the treatment and/or management of the group of rare blood cancers called the myeloproliferative neoplasms. Now however, new research, led by investigators from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (NY, USA), demonstrates that use of ruxolitinib by blood cancer patients is associated with their significant weight gain and alterations in their systolic blood pressure and liver enzyme concentrations.

Lead study author Emily Gallagher (Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai) explained: “Weight gain with ruxolitinib has previously been reported in clinical trials, but our study provides real-world experience regarding the extent of that weight gain.”

Frequently asked questions:

What are myeloproliferative neoplasms?

What is ruxolitinib?

In the study, researcher reviewed the electronic medical records of 69 patients with myeloproliferative neoplasms. Study participants commenced ruxolitinib therapy at Mount Sinai between 2010 and 2017; all patients had available metabolic parameter data for a minimum 52 week period prior to their starting ruxolitinib, as well as for 72 weeks following therapy commencement.

Study analysis revealed that more than 50% of individuals who took ruxolitinib gained more than 5% of their body mass over the course of the 72-week period following therapy commencement.

This significant weight gain occurred in tandem with increases in patients’ systolic blood pressure measurements and liver enzyme levels.

“In contrast to the perception of many health care providers, patients are not going from being underweight to being a normal weight. Instead, a significant number of patients are developing obesity. Based on these results, physicians should be aware of the potential effects, and counsel patients accordingly," Gallagher concluded. “We recommend that patients who go on this medication and do have an increase in weight get a full metabolic evaluation.”


Spare M, Tremblay D, Wilck E et al. Metabolic effects of JAK1/2 inhibition in patients with myeloproliferative neoplasms. Scientific Reports, 9(16609) (2019);

What are myeloproliferative neoplasms?

The myeloproliferative neoplasms are a group of related blood cancers each characterized by the overproduction of a myeloid blood cell lineage. Polycythemia vera and essential thrombocythemia are both example of myeloproliferative neoplasms; they are characterized by the overproduction of red blood cells and blood-clotting platelets respectively.

What is ruxolitinib?

Ruxolitinib is an inhibitor of JAK1/2; hyperactivation of this protein is associated with the production of various inflammatory mediators and is a known driver of myeloproliferative neoplasms.

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