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Leuk Lymphoma. 1995 Aug;18(5-6):413-21.

Erythropoiesis and erythropoietin in multiple myeloma.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, University of Li├Ęge, Belgium.


In this review, the pathophysiology and treatment of the anemia of multiple myeloma will be examined. While the anemia of cancer has multiple causes, an important component is labeled the "anemia of chronic disease" which is characterized by the combination of a shortened erythrocyte survival with failure of the bone marrow to increase red cell production in compensation. Depressed erythropoiesis is itself related to a combination of factors, including impaired availability of storage iron, inadequate erythropoietin response to anemia, and overproduction of cytokines which are capable of inhibiting erythropoiesis. These cytokines are involved in the retention of iron in the reticuloendothelial system, gastrointestinal tract and hepatocytes, may interfere with erythropoietin production by the kidney, and may exert direct inhibitory effects on erythroid precursors. While overproduction of several such cytokines, including IL-6, IL-1 and TNF-alpha, has been definitely demonstrated in multiple myeloma patients, it is still unclear whether they are directly involved in the pathogenesis of the anemia which develops. Although several mechanisms, such as hemodilution, bleeding, and decreased red cell survival operate, the anemia is mostly caused by defective erythropoietic activity. This in turn is partly explained by inadequate erythropoietin (Epo) production even in some patients without renal impairment. Based on measurements of serum erythropoietin and transferrin receptor, the distinction between marrow unresponsiveness to normal Epo stimulation and deficient Epo production is important for the treatment of the anemia of multiple myeloma with recombinant human Epo. Higher doses would probably be necessary if adequate Epo production is present, whereas only replacement therapy with lower doses may be sufficient when Epo production has been shown to be inappropriate.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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