• myeloma;
  • erythropoietin;
  • anemia;
  • interleukin-1;
  • tumor necrosis factor;
  • soluble transferrin receptor

Abstract:  Recombinant erythropoietin (r-EPO) was administered to 37 patients with advanced, transfusion-dependent and chemo-resistant multiple myeloma (MM), at the fixed dose of 10,000/U s.c, 3 times a week, for 2 months. Thirteen patients (35.1%) achieved a significant response in terms of complete abolition of red cell transfusions. Factors significantly predictive of response were: a) inappropriate production of endogenous EPO, as expressed by a reduced observed/predicted ratio; b) presence of a consistant number of circulating erythroid precursors BFU–E; c) low serum levels of tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and interleukin-1 (IL-1), cytokines with inhibitory activity on erythropoiesis; d) a single line of previously received chemotherapy. Renal failure, bone marrow plasma cell infiltration, serum levels of IL-6 and other main clinical and laboratory parameters did not affect significantly the response to r-EPO. High fluorescence reticulocytes (HFR) and soluble transferrin receptor (sTfR) values were useful to detect an early stimulation of erythropoiesis in responders, while a high percentage of circulating hypochromic erythrocytes (HE), as assessed by an automated counter, identified those patients developing functional iron deficiency during r-EPO treatment. We conclude that about one-third of severely anemic patients with advanced MM, unresponsive to chemotherapy, may benefit by r-EPO therapy. The clinical management of these patients can be accomplished using non-invasive parameters, such as sTfR, HFR and HE.