Growth, blood flow, oxygenation, and bioenergetic status of experimental tumors were investigated in normal (control) and anemic animals after administration of recombinant human erythropoietin (rhEPO). DS sarcomas were implanted s.c. onto the hind foot dorsum of Sprague-Dawley rats. Tumor-associated anemia was induced by the development of an i.p. hemorrhagic ascites. rhEPO (1000 IU/kg) was administered s.c. three times per week over 14 days, after which it was found to have significantly increased hematocrit values in both normal and anemic animals. Tumor growth in anemic animals was slower than in normal animals, and rhEPO administration did not influence tumor growth in either group. Tumor blood flow in anemic animals was lower than in control animals and was only increased in larger tumors in animals in which anemia was prevented by prophylactic rhEPO application. Tumor oxygenation, determined using polarographic needle electrodes and oxygen partial pressure histography, was poorer in anemic animals than in normal animals. This reduction could be reversed partially, but not compensated fully by rhEPO treatment in smaller tumors (≤1.4 ml). These changes suggest that rhEPO, by improving tumor oxygenation, may increase the efficacy of standard radiotherapy in anemic animals and may be of use in anemic tumor patients in whom the success of radiotherapy or O2-dependent chemotherapy might be limited by tumor hypoxia.
Supported by Stiftung Rheinland-Pfalz fuer Innovation (836-386261/49) and the Deutsche Krebshilfe (Grant M 40/91 Va 1).