Suicidal death of erythrocytes in cancer and its chemotherapy: A potential target in the treatment of tumor-associated anemia Academic Article uri icon

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  • In analogy to apoptosis of nucleated cells, erythrocytes may enter eryptosis characterized by cell shrinkage and cell membrane scrambling. Eryptotic erythrocytes are rapidly cleared from circulating blood and may adhere to the vascular wall. Stimulation of eryptosis thus impairs microcirculation and leads to anemia as soon as the loss of erythrocytes cannot be fully compensated by enhanced erythropoiesis. Signaling stimulating eryptosis includes increase of cytosolic Ca2+ -activity, ceramide, caspases, calpain, p38-kinase, protein-kinase C, Janus-activated kinase 3, casein-kinase 1α, and cyclin-dependent kinase 4. Eryptosis is inhibited by AMP-activated kinase, p21-activated kinase 2, cGMP-dependent protein-kinase, mitogen- and stress-activated kinase, and sorafenib- and sunitinib-sensitive tyrosine-kinases. Eryptosis is triggered by complement, hyperosmotic shock, energy-depletion, oxidative stress, multiple xenobiotics including diverse cytostatic drugs, diabetes, hepatic failure, iron-deficiency, chronic kidney disease, hemolytic-uremic-syndrome, fever, systemic lupus erythematosus, infections, sepsis, sickle cell anemia, thalassemia, glucose-6-phosphate-dehydrogenase deficiency, and Wilson´s disease. Compelling evidence points to a decisive role of eryptosis in anemia of malignancy. As shown for lung cancer, eryptosis inducing plasma components accumulate in cancer patients and trigger oxidative stress and ceramide. The tumor-induced eryptosis leads to anemia despite increased erythropoiesis. The stimulation of eryptosis in malignancy is compounded by cytostatic treatment, as a large number of cytostatic agents trigger eryptosis. Inhibiting eryptosis may be a useful strategy in reducing tumor-induced anemia and impaired microcirculation. Inhibitors of eryptosis may, however, be harmful, if they similarly interfere with death of tumor cells. Clearly, additional experimental effort is required to achieve killing of tumor cells with simultaneous avoidance of stimulated eryptosis.


  • Lang, Elisabeth
  • Bissinger, Rosi
  • Qadri, Syed
  • Lang, Florian

publication date

  • October 15, 2017