Effect of haemopoietic growth factors on cancer cell lines and their role in chemosensitivity

Oncogene. 2004 Jan 29;23(4):981-90. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1207294.


The recombinant growth factors (GFs) erythropoietin (Epo) and granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF) have important roles in the management of cancer patients. However, the effects of these GFs at a cellular level are not well understood. We examined the effect of GFs alone, and in combination with cytotoxic chemotherapy, in a panel of seven cell lines. Flow cytometric analysis showed varying levels of receptor expression, which correlated with phosphorylated MAPK expression. Additionally, there were also concomitant increases in BCL-2 protein levels in those cells with high levels of MAPK activation. Although culturing cells with Epo or GM-CSF did not alter cell viability by themselves, GF pretreatment in cell lines expressing higher receptor levels resulted in a reduced magnitude of cell kill following exposure to cytotoxic IC50 concentrations of cisplatin. Subsequent co-culture with either the MEK inhibitor U0126 or the GM-CSF antagonist E21R negated this induced resistance to cytotoxic chemotherapy, confirming the importance of the GF receptor as well as MAPK in mediating these effects. These results suggest that the use of GFs during chemotherapy may be detrimental in those cancers expressing higher levels of the specific receptor. Conversely, our results also suggest that GFs are safe to use in chemotherapeutic regimens if the cancer cells do not overexpress the particular receptor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Erythropoietin / pharmacology*
  • Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / metabolism


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • Erythropoietin
  • Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases