Risks and benefits of erythropoiesis-stimulating agents in cancer management.

Research paper by Gernot G Beutel, Arnold A Ganser

Indexed on: 17 Jul '07Published on: 17 Jul '07Published in: Seminars in Hematology


Anemia is frequently diagnosed in patients with cancer and its treatment is an important clinical problem. The deficiency in red blood cells (RBCs) can be a debilitating problem, and anemia correlates with poor performance status, deteriorates quality of life, and may negatively influence the prognosis of cancer patients. The development of recombinant human erythropoietins (rhEPO) provides a therapeutic option in patients with mild to moderate anemia. However, clinical experience demonstrates that more than half of anemic cancer patients are not treated. There is clear evidence that rhEPO reliably increases haemoglobin (Hb) levels in patients suffering from cancer-related or treatment-associated anemia. The dosing and management of these patients should strictly follow evidence-based guidelines of the clinical societies, as well as the manufacturer's recommendations. Furthermore, treatment of patients beyond the correction of anemia must be regarded as potentially harmful and should only be conducted in an experimental clinical setting. In this review, recently published recommendations and standards for the use of rhEPO will be discussed.