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Clin Cancer Res. 2008 Aug 1;14(15):4685-90. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-08-0264.

Erythropoiesis-stimulating agent use in cancer: preclinical and clinical perspectives.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27710, USA.


Erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESA) used for the treatment of chemotherapy-induced anemia in cancer patients have been associated with adverse outcomes of enhanced tumor progression and impaired survival in a series of recent clinical trials. As clinical practice guidelines for ESA administration in cancer patients have evolved to improve safety, the mechanisms underlying the adverse outcomes and whether ESAs exert direct and/or indirect effects in primary tumors to modulate tumor cell growth, survival, and chemoradiotherapy responses remain uncertain. Erythropoietin receptor (EpoR) expression in tumor cells has raised the simplistic possibility that Epo signaling mediated via a functional cellular receptor may contribute to tumor progression in a direct manner. However, Epo biology in cancer is likely to be complex and an interplay of multiple factors is potentially involved in the overall tumor response to exogenous Epo. Optimization of ESA use as an important supportive therapy modality in cancer patients, and further investigation of the role of Epo-EpoR in cancer biology will require a combination of carefully designed preclinical and clinical studies designed to ascertain not only the effect of ESA therapy on clinical outcomes such as tumor response, progression-free, and overall survival but also to investigate the potential effects of Epo on biomarkers of EpoR activation and factors related to tumor biology and chemoradiation responsiveness.

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