Chemotherapy drugs can kill cancer cells. However, they also damage the bone marrow's ability to produce white blood cells. Chemotherapy can cause myelosuppression and unacceptably low levels of white blood cells, making patients susceptible to infections and sepsis. Low level of white blood cells is also known as neutropenia, it increases the patient's risk of contracting an infection. Neutropenia usually comes along with fever. Patients receiving chemotherapy are likely to suffer this complication – called febrile neutropenia. But when they also receive drugs that stimulate white blood cell production, this complication can be relieved.
As a hormone produced by the body that stimulates the bone marrow to produce more white blood cells, G-CSF can be taken as a drug that can reduce the severity and duration of neutropenia in patients with some types of cancer.
Blood cells are produced in the body's bone marrow (the soft, sponge-like material found inside bones). Blood cells have three major types: white blood cells, which fight infection; red blood cells, which carry oxygen to and remove waste products from organs and tissues; and platelets, which enable the blood to clot. Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy can effect these cells which put a person at risk for developing infections, anemia and bleeding problems. To treat these problems, people need substances that stimulate the production of blood cells and promote their ability to function. Colony-stimulating factors are such substances. They do not directly affect tumors but through their role in stimulating blood cells they can be helpful as support of the persons immune system during cancer treatment.
G-CSF stimulates the production of white blood cells (WBC). In oncology and hematology, a recombinant form of G-CSF is used with certain cancer patients to accelerate recovery from neutropenia afterchemotherapy, allowing higher-intensity treatment regimens.
G-CSF is also used to increase the number of hematopoietic stem cells in the blood of the donor before collection by leukapheresis for use in hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.
Given G-CSF injection early after exposure to radiation may improve white blood cell counts, and G-CSF is stockpiled for use in radiation incidents. People who have been administered colony-stimulating factors do not have a higher risk of leukemia than people who have not.