Colony Stimulating Factor

colony stimulating factor
Nurse teaches a patient and her
husband how to administer an
injection of colony stimulating factor (NCI).

by Ross Bonander

Colony-stimulating factors are glycoproteins found chiefly in the plasma. They bind to the surface of hematopoietic stem cells (cells in the bone marrow), which ignites intracellular signaling pathways within the cell, stimulating the growth and proliferation of blood cells (typically white blood cells, or neutrophils).

Four CSFs have been identified.

  • CSF1: colony stimulating factor 1 (macrophage)
  • CSF2: colony stimulating factor 2 (granulocyte-macrophage)
  • G-CSF: colony stimulating factor 3 (granulocyte)
  • Interleukin-3
  • Drugs that are classified as colony-stimulating factors:

    For information specific to these CSFs please see their individual entries at this site.

    What it's effective for and why

    In their capacity to promote the growth, proliferation and maturation of specific white blood cells, colony-stimulating factors do the job that the body sometimes cannot do, on account of myelosuppressive or neutropenia-inducing chemotherapy or other anti-cancer treatments. Sometimes, CSFs are used in a preventive setting, to prevent the development of febrile neutropenia. They are also used to treat acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and to stimulate engraftment following a bone marrow transplant.

    Side effects: Overview

    Colony-stimulating factors present a certain risk for serious allergic reactions, although that is dependent on the specific CSF. Furthermore, injection-site redness is not uncommon, and perhaps one of the most common side effects is mild to moderate bone pain, believed to be caused by the proliferation of neutrophils in the bone marrow and the subsequent pressure exerted from within.


    • Ko, Andrew H MD et al. 2008. Everyone's Guide to Cancer Therapy, Fifth Ed. Kansas City. Andres McMeel Publishing LLC.
    • National Library of Medicine: CSF
    • Boyiadzis, Michael M. et al. Hematology-Oncology Therapy. 2007. New York: McGraw Hill, Medical Publishing Division.


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