, Volume 67, Issue 2, pp 175-194
Date: 12 Sep 2012

Guidelines and Recommendations for the Management of Anaemia in Patients with Lymphoid Malignancies

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Abstract

Patients with lymphoid malignancies frequently require repetitive and intensive anticancer treatments to induce and maintain disease remission. Anaemia (haemoglobin [Hb] <12 g/dL) is a common and debilitating problem associated with both the malignancy itself and its treatment burden. Anaemia negatively impacts on all aspects of patient quality of life (QOL) and treatment outcomes and survival, particularly in this disease setting.

Widely acknowledged goals of anaemia treatment include Hb correction to ≈12 g/dL, reduction in transfusion requirements and optimisation of patient QOL. Since the introduction of recombinant human erythropoietic therapy, transfusion (once the only anaemia treatment option available) is now primarily reserved for non-responders or those with severe or life-threatening anaemia. Data from randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies, and large, non-randomised, open-label, community-based studies, along with almost 15 years of practical experience, support the assertion that epoetin alfa administered at a dosage of 150–300 U/kg three times weekly or 40 000–60 000U once weekly, both of which are US FDA-approved dose administration schedules, can effectively and safely achieve anaemia treatment goals for the majority of patients with lymphoid malignancies. Data and practical experience collected over the last 5 years on another erythropoietic agent with a slightly longer half-life but lower binding affinity, darbepoetin alfa, show that this agent when administered according to the FDA-approved dose administration schedules (2.25–4.5 µg/kg once weekly or 500µg once every 3 weeks) or according to a commonly-administered dose in clinical practice (3.0–5.0 µg/kg once every 2 weeks) can also effectively and safely correct anaemia, reduce transfusion requirements and improve QOL in many patients with lymphoid malignancies. One comparative head-to-head trial suggested that epoetin alfa might be superior to darbepoetin alfa in anaemic cancer patients receiving chemotherapy with respect to timing and magnitude of Hb correction, although further study is necessary, especially concerning optimal dose administration. Alternative dose administration schedules, such as epoetin alfa 80 000U every 2 weeks from initiation or 80 000U every 3 weeks following initiation with once weekly administration and darbepoetin alfa 4.5 µg/kg every 3 weeks following initiation with once weekly administration, are being actively investigated with the goal of increased flexibility for patients and healthcare providers.

The treatment of anaemia in patients with lymphoid malignancies is an important part of overall disease management, as evidenced by continuous investigation of existing erythropoietic agents and new agents. Although treatment guidelines issued by organisations such as the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) and American Society of Hematology (ASH)/American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) suggest intervention with erythropoietic therapy when Hb falls below 10–11 g/dL or based on clinical symptoms, data suggest that anaemia is vastly under-recognised and under-treated. Clearly, an update on the definition, identification and optimal management of anaemia in patients with lymphoid malignancies is warranted.