Delayed erythroid recovery is common after bone marrow transplantation (BMT), with some patients continuing to require red blood cell (RBC) transfusion support for as long as 1 year. While the etiology is multifactorial, inadequate stimulation of erythroid progenitors by the erythroid growth factor, erythropoietin, may play a role. In this study, the erythropoietin response to anemia of 70 consecutive patients undergoing BMT at the Johns Hopkins Oncology Center was compared with the erythropoietin response in uncomplicated iron deficiency anemia. Erythropoietin levels were elevated for the degree of anemia early after BMT; however, at the time of marrow recovery, erythropoietin levels were significantly suppressed in both allogeneic and autologous BMT patients compared with the iron-deficient patients. Patients with acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) had a more marked suppression of the erythropoietin response to anemia. In the patients who remained anemic for extended periods of time (up to 12 months after BMT), an inadequate erythropoietin response to anemia persisted. Delayed erythroid recovery after BMT is associated with inadequate erythropoietin levels. Therefore, recombinant human erythropoietin may be useful in the treatment of the anemia associated with both autologous and allogeneic BMT.

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