Management Options for Cancer Therapy-Related Anaemia
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Anaemia is common in patients with haematological malignancy, occurring in the majority of patients with malignant disease who are treated with chemotherapy. Most patients will have their anaemia attributed to the cytokine-mediated anaemia of chronic disease. Many of these patients with anaemia will be symptomatic with fatigue, which is the single most important symptom reported. Data from many studies indicate that treatment of patients with anaemia with recombinant human erythropoietin (rHuEpo) will increase their haemoglobin level, decrease transfusion need and also improve their quality of life. Recent clinical and experimental work suggest that improving the haemoglobin level may improve the patients’ prognosis but this finding needs to be confirmed.
Treatment of anaemia with rHuEpo in patients with cancer may produce many benefits. Unfortunately, rHuEpo is effective in only around 60% of patients, is slow acting and is expensive. These drawbacks have restricted its use in many healthcare systems. However, a failure to treat anaemia may have important adverse effects for the patient both in terms of their quality of life and, just possibly, in terms of their life expectancy.
Dr Tim J. Littlewood is a paid consultant to one of the companies manufacturing recombinant human erythropoietin. No funding was used in the preparation of this manuscript.
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