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Blood Cell Growth Factors

If your blood cell counts are significantly low from MDS, your doctor may give you a drug called a blood cell growth factor to stimulate your blood cell production.

Our bodies normally make blood cells with the help of a hormone produced in our kidneys, called erythropoietin (EPO). Growth factors called erythropoietin-stimulating agents (ESAs) are synthetic (manufactured) versions of EPO that help make red cells. Commonly used ESAs are Procrit® and Aranesp®. Both are injected under the skin (subcutaneous injection).

Most people with MDS don't have low levels of EPO even if they have a low red cell count (anemia). But, all MDS patients need to get their EPO levels checked. ESAs help only the 10 percent to 20 percent of MDS patients who have anemia that's associated with low EPO. For people in this subgroup, who usually have a low or intermediate-1 risk according to the International Prognostic Scoring System, treatment with EPO reduces the need for blood transfusions and may improve survival outlook.

Your doctor may combine an ESA with a hormone that stimulates white cell production to increase your level of hemoglobin. He or she may use one of the following hormones:

  • granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF)
  • granulocyte macrophage-colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF)

If you would like to read about these drugs individually, including information about side effects, click here.

Growth Factors for Infections

Although G-CSFs and GM-CSFs alone aren't effective in treating MDS, they can be effective in treating infections in all MDS patients. If your blood is low in neutrophils (a type of white cell) and you're developing infections, your doctor may prescribe one.

Be sure to let your doctor know if you think you're developing an infection or if you have an unexplained fever. If you have a bacterial or fungal infection, your doctor may also prescribe an antibiotic. If you have a viral infection, you'll likely be given an antiviral drug.

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last updated on Wednesday, April 24, 2013

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