, Volume 18, Issue 12, pp 1515-1520
Date: 17 Nov 2009

Dose reduction of epoetin-alpha in the prevention of chemotherapy-induced anaemia

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Anaemia during chemotherapy is often left untreated. Erythropoiesis-stimulating agents are frequently used to treat overt anaemia. Their prophylactic use, however, remains controversial and raises concerns about cost-effectiveness. Therefore, we assessed the efficacy of a dose-reduction schedule in anaemia prophylaxis.

Materials and methods

The study included patients with untreated solid tumours about to receive platinum-based chemotherapy and had haemoglobin (Hb) levels ≥11 g/dL. Epoetin-α was administered at a dose level of 3 × 10,000 U weekly as soon as Hb descended to < 13 g/dL. Dose reductions to 3 × 4,000 U and 3 × 2,000 U weekly were planned in 4-week intervals if Hb stabilised in the range of 11–13 g/dL. Upon ascending to ≥13 g/dL, epoetin was discontinued. Iron supplements of 100 mg intravenous doses were given weekly. Of 37 patients who enrolled, 33 could be evaluated.

Results and discussion

Their median Hb level was 13.7 (10.9–16.2) g/dL at baseline and descended to 11.0 (7.4–13.8) g/dL by the end of chemotherapy. Anaemia (Hb < 10 g/dL) was prevented in 24 patients (73%). The mean dose requirement for epoetin-α was 3 × 5,866 U per week per patient, representing a dose reduction of 41%. Treatment failed in nine patients (27%), in part due to epoetin-α resistance in four (12%) and blood transfusion in three (9%) patients.


Dose reduction was as effective as fixed doses in anaemia prophylaxis but reduced the amount of prescribed epoetin substantially.

François Lüthi and Miklos Pless contributed equally to the work.