Growth Factors

Growth factors cause your bone marrow to produce more blood cells. They may be helpful for some patients, but they do not replace immunosuppressive therapy.

Red cell growth factor is called erythropoietin or EPO for short. It is a hormone naturally produced in the liver. Man-made forms of erythropoietin come in the brand names Epogen and Procrit. Darbapoietin, is similar to EPO, and comes in the brand name Aranesp.

These medicines have some risks. You and your doctor will work together to decide whether the benefits of these medicines outweigh the risks.

If you don't have enough healthy red blood cells, your doctor may ask you to take a red blood cell growth factor. It causes your bone marrow to make more red blood cells.

Your kidneys make a red blood cell growth factor called EPO, or erythropoietin. If you don't have enough natural EPO or if you have anemia, you may take a form of EPO that is made in a lab. It is sold under the names Procrit®, Epogen®, and Aranesp®.

Your doctor may ask you to take a white blood cell growth factor along with EPO. This combination may improve red blood cell counts in certain patients.

White Blood Cell Growth Factors

If you don't have enough healthy white cells in your blood, your doctor may ask you to take a white blood cell growth factor to improve your immune system. White blood cell growth factors cause your bone marrow to make white blood cells. These are the most common ones:

  •  G-CSF (granulocyte colony-stimulating factors) are sold under the names Filgrastim® and Neupogen®.
  •  GM-CSF (granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factors) are sold under the names Leukine® and Sargramostim®.


Doctors are careful about giving white cell growth factors to MDS patients. Sometimes, white cell growth factors can increase the growth of blast cells in patients with high-risk MDS. This can be a serious problem. For this reason, the use of these growth factors for MDS patients is often limited to the treatment of infections, along with antibiotics.