About growth factors

Growth factors are natural substances that stimulate the bone marrow to make blood cells. 

How growth factors work

Growth factors increase the number of white blood cells and stem cells in the blood. 

When you might have growth factors

You might have growth factors:

  • before stem cell collection for a stem cell or bone marrow transplant 
  • after chemotherapy 

Before stem cell collection

Growth factors are given before collecting stem cells for a stem cell transplant. Stem cells develop into blood cells, such as white blood cells. Daily growth factor injections make the bone marrow produce many more stem cells than normal. These extra stem cells spill over into the bloodstream. They are then collected by a machine.

After chemotherapy

Your white blood cell count drops after having chemotherapy and so you are at an increased risk of getting an infection. The longer your white cell count is low the greater your risk. Having a growth factor helps your white cell count go up more quickly. This could lower the risk of infection.

Types of growth factors

Doctors sometimes use the growth factor called granulocyte colony stimulating factor or G-CSF during AML treatment.

There are different types of G-CSF called:

  • filgrastim
  • lenograstim 
  • pegfilgrastim- this is a long acting type

How you have growth factors

You usually have growth factors as an injection under the skin. This might be in the tummy (abdomen), or into an arm or a leg.

Before your growth factor treatment

You have a blood test to check your level of white blood cells. If the level is low you might need growth factor treatment.

Side effects

Common side effects of growth factors include:

  • itching around the injection site
  • pain in your bones
  • fever

Let your team know if you have any side effects. 

Itching around the injection site often gets better on its own and painkillers can help if you have bone pain.

Last reviewed: 
07 May 2020
Next review due: 
05 May 2023
  • Pan-London Haemato-Oncology Clinical Guidelines Acute Leukaemias and Myeloid Neoplasms Part 2: Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (2018)

    Accessed July 2019


Related links