Brain and cancer: The protective role of erythropoietin

Michele Buemi, Chiara Caccamo, Lorena Nostro, Emanuela Cavallaro, Fulvio Floccari, Giovanni Grasso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Erythropoietin (Epo) is a pleiotropic agent, that is to say, it can act on several cell types in different ways. An independent system Epo/Epo receptor (EpoR) was detected in brain, leading to the hypothesis that this hormone could be involved in cerebral functions. Epo/EpoR expression changes during ontogenesis, thus indicating the importance of this system in neurodevelopment. Moreover, the hypoxia-induced production of Epo in the adult brain suggests that it could exert a neurotrophic and neuroprotective effect in case of brain injury. Epo could also influence neurotransmission, inducing neurotransmitters (NT) release. Epo therapy in anemic cancer patients is still a controversial issue, because of its possible action as a growth and an angiogenic factor. In our speculative hypothesis Epo could be involved in a "two steps process" that, after a neovascularization phase, leads to its down regulation. Moreover, Epo-activated signaling pathways could be modulated as possible targets to interfere in neoplastic cells cycle. In conclusion, treatment with rHuEpo could change therapeutical perspectives in different pathological conditions, such as central nervous system (CNS) diseases, but further studies are needed to clarify its physiopathological activities in different clinical fields.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-259
Number of pages15
JournalMedicinal Research Reviews
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2005


  • Angiogenesis
  • Cancer
  • Erythropoietin
  • Hypoxia
  • Neuroprotection
  • Pleiotropy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Organic Chemistry
  • Pharmacology
  • Medicine(all)


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