Researchers Discover VEGF Contributes to Cancer-Associated Anemia

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According to a new study in the journal Cell Reports, researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Solna, Sweden, have discovered how cancer affects a person's blood count and bone marrow characteristics.

Anemia, a low red blood cell count, is common in patients with cancer undergoing treatment with myelosuppressive chemotherapy; however, cancer can also cause anemia, but there is little knowledge about the causes of this effect. Now, researchers have identified the mechanism behind the phenomenon. They found that vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a signal protein produced by cancer to form new blood vessels, and the VEGF-2 receptor affect the formation of new red blood cells in the body.

The researchers hope that the new findings will contribute to a possible treatment for reduced blood counts not caused by chemotherapy in patients with cancer.

Anemia can increase fatigue resulting in a decreased quality of life of patients. The researchers would also like to figure out if a low blood count could act as a biomarker for determining which patients would benefit from drugs that inhibit VEGF. They hypothesize that patients whose blood count is improved by VEGF-inhibiting therapy would benefit when used as a treatment for cancer.

Anemia in Cancer Patients
Researchers discovered how cancer affects a person's blood count and bone marrow characteristics.

Many patients with cancer experience low blood counts, which causes weakness and fatigue. Researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and colleagues from China and the UK have discovered how a tumour affects a patient's blood count and bone marrow characteristics.

The study has been published online in the scientific journal Cell Reports. A low blood count, or anemia, is common in cancer patients and causes considerable fatigue. Anemia is sometimes caused by patients taking cytostatic drugs, which also kill healthy cells including red blood cells. But cancer in itself also affects the blood count and there is a lack of knowledge about the causes of this phenomenon. Researchers have now succeeded in mapping out an important mechanism which explains how a tumour manages to affect a person's blood count and bone marrow characteristics.

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