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Blood. 1992 Jan 1;79(1):29-37.

Subcutaneous erythropoietin for treatment of refractory anemia in hematologic disorders. Results of a phase I/II clinical trial.

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Department of Internal Medicine and Medical Therapy, University of Pavia, Italy.


We have used recombinant human erythropoietin (rHuEPO) in a phase I/II clinical trial to evaluate its ability to reverse refractory anemia in hematologic disorders. rHuEPO was administered subcutaneously 5 days per week at escalating doses (50 to 150 U/kg per day). The aim of treatment was a hemoglobin (Hb) level greater than or equal to 10 g/dL without blood transfusion. Of 25 patients treated, 17 were evaluable, most of them with a regular need for transfusion. Eight of these had lymphoproliferative disorders (three cases of malignant lymphoma and five of monoclonal gammopathy) and were exposed to cytotoxic therapy. The other nine patients had hematopoietic stem cell disorders (four cases of myelodysplastic syndrome, three of idiopathic myelofibrosis, and two of chronic myelogenous leukemia). All patients with lymphoproliferative disorder had serum EPO levels inappropriately low for the degree of anemia, while patients with stem cell disorder showed variable values. Erythroid marrow activity was inadequate in all cases. Seven of eight patients with lymphoproliferative disorder responded to treatment maintaining Hb above 10 g/dL without transfusion. The median dose of rHuEPO required for correction of anemia was 75 U/kg. In four cases response was maintained with 50 U/kg, three times per week. There was no complete response among patients with hematopoietic stem cell disorder, although transfusion requirement was eliminated or reduced in four cases. Four patients developed functional iron deficiency during rHuEPO treatment and required iron supplementation to obtain response. Aggravation of splenomegaly was observed in two cases of myeloproliferative disorder. We conclude that: (1) subcutaneous administration of rHuEPO can be effective and safe in patients with lymphoproliferative disorder exposed to chemotherapy and showing inappropriate EPO response to anemia; (2) this is less likely in hematopoietic stem cell disorders, although favorable responses may be observed in occasional patients; and (3) functional iron deficiency as a cause of nonresponse to rHuEPO is frequent also in nonrenal anemia.

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