In an attempt to reduce or eliminate homologous red blood cell transfusion requirements during allogeneic bone marrow transplantation (BMT), we instituted a novel program whereby recombinant human erythropoietin was administered to pairs of BMT donors and recipients. Eleven recipients and their HLA-matched donors were enrolled. Donors treated with recombinant human erythropoietin (rHuEPO) were phlebotomized a median of 6 U (range, 4 to 11 U) of blood over a 5-week period. This donor-derived blood was available to the BMT donor or recipient as needed. Transplant recipients were also treated with rHuEPO post-BMT to hasten erythropoiesis. Five of 11 BMT recipients underwent transplant receiving only donor-derived red blood cell transfusion, compared with 0 of 11 concomitant control recipients (P = .04). In addition, the time to absolute reticulocyte count > or = 10(4)/microL was statistically shorter in the rHuEPO-treated recipient group. This study serves as a paradigm for hematopoietic growth factor use in allogeneic BMT to decrease or eliminate homologous transfusion exposures and to possibly hasten hematopoietic engraftment.