Erythropoietin in cancer: An update

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23 Citations (Scopus)


Erythropoietin (EPO) has long been recognized as the major hematopoietic cytokine regulating normal erythropoiesis. Moreover, there is a growing interest in the non-erythropoietic, tissue-protective effects of EPO. Because of its potential to correct anemia, EPO has been increasingly prescribed to cancer patients. However, although recombinant human Epo (rHuEPO) significantly reduces the risk for red blood cell transfusions in cancer patients, recent clinical studies have reported decreased survival and disease control following rHuEPO treatment in patients with different cancer types. The issue of EPOR expression in tumor cells is critical in this respect. The expression of EPOR in tumor cells raises the possibility that exogenous rHuEPO may directly influence tumor growth or sensitivity to chemo-radiation therapy. In addition, EPOR expression in endothelial cells suggests what potential effects EPO may have on tumor capillaries, such as the stimulation of angiogenesis. However, as experimental studies reveal, the overall direct effect of EPO-EPOR signaling on cancer progression and therapy is not a straightforward one. The current paper provides an update on the biology of EPO, and discusses its utility in the treatment of cancer patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)481-491
Number of pages11
JournalCurrent Molecular Medicine
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 2008



  • Anemia
  • Cancer
  • Erythropoietin
  • Hypoxia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology

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