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Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology
Volume 14, Suppl D, Pages 73D-78D

Clinical Biology and Potential Use of Thrombopoietin

Russell Basser

Departments of Haematology and Medical Oncology, Royal Melbourne Hospital and Western Hospital, Victoria, Australia

Received 11 February 1999; Accepted 25 February 1999

Copyright © 2000 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The discovery of platelet growth factors raised expectations that an effective method for abrogating thrombocytopenia would soon be available in the clinic. The cytokines initially described were pleiotropic in nature, and stimulation of platelet production was generally modest. However, one of these agents, interleukin-11, was successfully shown to reduce the incidence of severe thrombocytopenia in patients receiving dose-intensive chemotherapy, and has now received approval from the United States Food and Drug Administration for this purpose. Initial clinical trials of thrombopoietin, the central regulator of megakaryocytopoiesis and thrombopoiesis, and its analogues showed these agents to be the most potent stimulators of thrombopoiesis and to be associated with few adverse effects. They have also been shown to enhance platelet recovery after chemotherapy, but early results from trials investigating their ability to prevent severe thrombocytopenia associated with the treatment of leukemia and bone marrow transplantation have been disappointing. In addition, subcutaneous administration of one of these agents, megakaryocyte growth and development factor, has been shown to induce the formation of antibodies that neutralize native thrombopoietin and cause thrombocytopenia. Platelet growth factors remain promising therapeutic agents; however, there are a number of obstacles to overcome before they find general use in the clinic.