Research Papers:

Recombinant human erythropoietin stimulates melanoma tumor growth through activation of initiation factor eIF4E

Annabelle Julius, Anjali Desai and Raymond L. Yung _

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:30317-30327. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.16331

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Annabelle Julius1,*, Anjali Desai1,*, Raymond L. Yung2,*

1Division of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA

2Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center, Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor Health System, Ann Arbor, MI, USA

*These authors contributed equally to this work

Correspondence to:

Raymond L. Yung, email: [email protected]

Keywords: melanoma, erythropoietin

Received: October 27, 2016     Accepted: March 08, 2017     Published: March 17, 2017


Recombinant human erythropoietin (EPO) is standard treatment for anemia in cancer patients. Recent clinical trials suggest that EPO may accelerate tumor progression and increase mortality. However, the evidence supporting a growth-promoting effect of EPO has remained controversial. Employing an in vivo model of B16 murine melanoma, we observed that administration of EPO to tumor bearing C57BL/6 mice resulted in pronounced acceleration of melanoma growth. Our in vitro studies demonstrate that B16 murine melanoma cells express EPOR, both at the protein and mRNA levels. Interestingly, expression of EPOR was retained in the established tumors. EPO stimulation of B16 cells enhanced proliferation and protein synthesis rates, and correlated with activation of the receptor associated Janus kinase 2 (Jak2) as well as phosphorylation of extracellular signal–regulated kinase (Erk) 1/2 and Akt kinases. Treatment with EPO and Jak-2 antagonists significantly inhibited EPO-mediated B16 cell proliferation. Moreover, EPO dose-dependently induced the phosphorylation and activation of the translation initiation factor eIF4E as well as the phosphorylation of its repressor, the eIF4E binding protein 4E-BP1. Finally, using eIF4E small interfering RNA (siRNA), we observed that EPO-mediated stimulation of B16 cell proliferation is eIF4E-dependent. Our results indicate that EPO exerts a powerful stimulatory effect on cell proliferation and de novo protein synthesis in melanoma cells through activation of the initiation factor eIF4E.

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