American Journal of Cancer

, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 233–245

Cancer-related anemia

Clinical relevance and treatment strategies
Review Article

DOI: 10.2165/00024669-200504040-00003

Cite this article as:
Pirker, R., Wiesenberger, K. & Minar, W. Am J Cancer (2005) 4: 233. doi:10.2165/00024669-200504040-00003


Anemia has a high prevalence in patients with cancer. Its frequency and severity depend on tumor type, tumor stage, duration of disease, and treatment status. The etiology of cancer-related anemia is multifactorial and includes myelotoxicity of treatment, bone marrow infiltration, impaired erythropoietin production, blood loss, and the anemia of chronic disease. Anemia affects health-related quality of life (QOL) and may impact on tolerance or even outcome of anticancer therapy. Despite its high prevalence and impact on QOL, anemia is often under-recognized and under-treated. Treatment should correct etiologic factors, whenever possible. Symptomatic treatments are red blood cell transfusions and administration of erythropoietic growth factors. Transfusions result in rapid improvement of anemia-related symptoms but are usually only given to patients with moderate to severe anemia. Administration of epoetins (epoetin alfa, epoetin beta) or darbepoetin alfa increases hemoglobin levels, reduces the need for blood transfusions, and improves QOL in patients with cancer-related anemia. Trials determining the exact association of anemia with both response to chemo(radio)therapy and survival are ongoing. Physicians should be aware of the clinical relevance of and treatment options for anemia in cancer patients.

Copyright information

© Adis Data Information BV 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Pirker
    • 1
  • Katrin Wiesenberger
    • 1
  • Wilma Minar
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Internal Medicine IMedical University ViennaViennaAustria