Recombinant human erythropoietin (rHuEpo) was introduced into clinical practice more than a decade ago, and has been found to be effective in the treatment of several types of anemia, including anemia of end-stage renal failure and cancer-related anemia. No study has suggested that Epo might have an effect on the biology of the disease, nor any survival advantage to cancer patients treated with Epo for anemia has been reported. Here we report six patients with advanced multiple myeloma (MM) with very poor prognostic features, whose expected survival was < 6 months. All six patients were treated with rHuEpo for their anemia, either without any chemotherapy or very mild chemotherapy for a short time. Yet, surprisingly they lived for 45-133 months totally from MM diagnosis and 38-94 months with rHuEpo (with a good quality of life). In fact, one patient, is still alive and well, more than 8 yr after chemotherapy was discontinued because of a resistant aggressive disease. The course in these six MM patients led us to hypothesize that Epo might have an antineoplastic or antimyeloma effect. We proceeded and tested that hypothesis in mouse models of myeloma (Mittelman M et al., Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 98:5181,2001). In these models we confirmed that rHuEpo induced tumor regression in about 50% of the BALB/c mice inoculated with MOPC-315 myeloma cells. We then presented evidence that the mechanism is a new immune-mediated phenomenon, via activation of CD8+ T cells. Furthermore, evidence from the literature supports the antineoplastic effect of Epo. Epo might be used as an adjunct immune treatment in various malignant diseases, in addition to the current regimens and chemotherapeutic protocols. Fututre trials should determine the role of Epo in myeloma and cancer treatment, besides clarifying concerns about the presence of Epo receptors on some tumor cells.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)