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Granulocyte colony stimulating factor (G-CSF)

Find out what G-CSF (granulocyte colony stimulating factor) is, how you have it and other important information about having G-CSF.

G-CSF is a type of growth factor. You might have G-CSF after chemotherapy to help your white blood cells recover after treatment. Or you might have it before and after a stem cell transplant.

There are different types of G-CSF, including:

  • lenograstim (Granocyte)
  • filgrastim (Neupogen, Zarzio, Nivestim, Ratiograstim)
  • long acting (pegylated) filgrastim (pegfilgrastim, Neulasta) and lipegfilgrastim (Longquex)

Pegylated G-CSF stays in the body for longer so you have treatment less often than with the other types of G-CSF. This type of G-CSF is not commonly used in the NHS. 

How it works

Growth factors are proteins made in the body. Some of them make the bone marrow produce blood cells. G-CSF is a type of growth factor that makes the bone marrow produce white blood cells to reduce the risk of infection after some types of cancer treatment. 

G-CSF also makes some stem cells move from the bone marrow into the blood. Stem cells are the cells in the bone marrow that make red blood cells, white cells and platelets.

Before a stem cell transplant, you have G-CSF to stimulate the bone marrow to produce stem cells and release them into the blood. The stem cells are collected and then you have high dose chemotherapy.

The high dose of chemotherapy stops your bone marrow producing blood cells. So you have the stem cells back into your bloodstream. They go into the bone marrow and start making the different types of blood cells again. 

How you have it

Most people have G-CSF as an injection under the skin. You can also have it as a drip into your bloodstream (intravenously).  

Injection under your skin

You usually have injections under the skin (subcutaneous injection) into the stomach, thigh or top of your arm.

You might have stinging or a dull ache for a short time after this type of injection but they don't usually hurt much. The skin in the area may go red and itchy for a while.

The video below shows you how to give an injection just under your skin (subcutaneously). 

Into your bloodstream

You have the treatment through a drip into your arm. A nurse puts a small tube (a cannula) into one of your veins and connects the drip to it.

You might need a central line. This is a long plastic tube that gives the drugs into a large vein, either in your chest or through a vein in your arm. It stays in while you’re having treatment, which may be for a few months.

Tests during treatment

You have blood tests before starting treatment and during your treatment. They check your levels of blood cells and other substances in the blood. They also check how well your liver and kidneys are working.

Side effects

Important information

Other medicines, foods and drink

Cancer drugs can interact with some other medicines and herbal products. Tell your doctor or pharmacist about any medicines you are taking. This includes vitamins, herbal supplements and over the counter remedies.

Pregnancy and contraception

This treatment might harm a baby developing in the womb. It is important not to become pregnant or father a child while you are having treatment and for a few months afterwards. Talk to your doctor or nurse about effective contraception before starting treatment.

Breastfeeding

Don’t breastfeed during this treatment because the drug may come through in your breast milk.

Treatment for other conditions

Always tell other doctors, nurses, pharmacists or dentists that you’re having this treatment if you need treatment for anything else, including teeth problems.

Storing G-CSF

You need to keep your ready-filled syringes in the fridge between 2 and 8°C, except for lenograstim, which is stored at room temperature.

More information about this treatment

For further information about this treatment go to the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) website.

You can report any side effect you have to the Medicines Health and Regulatory Authority (MHRA) as part of their Yellow Card Scheme.

Last reviewed: 
19 Feb 2018
  • Electronic Medicines Compendium 

    Accessed February 2018

  • Neutropenic sepsis: prevention and management in people with cancer
    The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), 2012

  • Guideline for the use of granulocyte colony stimulating factor (G-CSF) for adults in oncology and haematology
    Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, 2017

  • 2006 Update of ASCO Practice Guideline Recommendations for the Use of White Blood Cell Growth Factors: Guideline Summary
    Journal of Oncology Practice, 2006. Vol 2, number 4, pages 196-201

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