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April 20, 2005

Erythropoietin and Cancer—Reply

JAMA. 2005;293(15):1858-1859. doi:10.1001/jama.293.15.1858-b

In Reply: Concerns about the use of erythropoietin in cancer patients, as described by Dr Sadoff, are understandable, and these issues continue to fuel a number of investigations. Both the secretion of erythropoietin as well as the expression of erythropoietin receptors have been demonstrated in tumor cells, implying that the trophic factor erythropoietin in these cells may promote tumor growth.1 A recent clinical study also suggested that increased erythropoietin expression is associated with tumor cell hypoxia and may contribute to diminished efficacy of chemotherapeutic agents in certain tumors.2 However, recent animal studies suggest that erythropoietin can slow tumor growth. For example, erythropoietin can sensitize tumor cells to radiation therapy3 and act synergistically with chemotherapeutic agents to suppress tumor growth.4

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