Erythropoietin production. A potential marker for interleukin‐2/interferon‐responsive tumors

John E. Janik, William H. Sharfman, John W. Smitht, Dan L. Longo, Mario Sznol, Walter J. Urba, Robert Figlin, William C. Pierce, Ronald M. Bukowski, Gwen Fyfe, Arie Belldegrun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Background. Interleukin‐2 (IL‐2) recently was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of renal cell cancer. It is effective in a small minority of patients, but no markers identify individuals likely to respond to treatment. Methods. Two polycythemic patients with erythropoietin‐producing renal cell cancer and three other polycythemic patients with renal cell cancer were treated with the combination of IL‐2 and alpha‐interferon (α‐IFN). Results. All five patients achieved a partial or complete remission. In both patients in which it was measured, the erythropoietin level decreased significantly with treatment, and the polycythemia resolved in all patients. Hypothyroidism developed in two patients, and transient hyperthyroidism developed in another. Conclusion. These results contrast with those achieved with IL‐2 alone or in combination with lymphokine‐activated killer cells, for which a 15% response rate was seen in patients with renal cell cancer and polycythemia. Although less than 5% of renal cell tumors produce erythropoietin, its production may identify a subset of individuals with renal cell cancer responsive to IL‐2 and α‐IFN.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2656-2659
Number of pages4
Issue number9
StatePublished - Nov 1 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • alpha‐interferon
  • erythropoietin
  • immunotherapy
  • interleukin‐2
  • renal cell cancer
  • tumor antigen
  • tumor marker

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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