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 25 May 2018

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News

Anemia treatment may worsen cancer prognosis

A European study in this week's issue of the Lancet casts doubt over the value of treating anemia with erythropoietin (epoetin beta) in cancer patients.

News image

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Anemia is associated with poor cancer control, particularly in patients undergoing radiotherapy.

Dr Michael Henke from the University of Freiburg, Germany, and colleagues investigated whether the treatment of anemia with epoetin beta improved the outcome of curative radiotherapy in patients with head and neck cancer.

The team performed a multicenter trial, which included 351 patients from Europe.
Patients in the placebo group had a 60% better chance of progression-free survival.
Lancet

Patients were given either epoetin beta or placebo approximately 2 weeks before radiotherapy.

Although epoetin beta was effective in treating anemia, patients given epoetin beta fared less well than patients given placebo. Patients in the placebo group had a 60% better chance of progression-free survival.

Results of this study show that anemic patients have reduced cancer progression and increased survival if their anemia is not treated around the time of cancer therapy.

Dr Henke comments, "Although epoetin beta efficiently corrects anemia among patients undergoing curative radiotherapy, it is not associated with improved cancer control or survival".

"On the contrary, erythropoietin might impair disease control when manifest cancer is irradiated".

"Future erythropoietin trials should thus carefully analyze cancer control and survival, and investigations on the underlying mechanism of the clinically relevant hemoglobin effect should be reinforced".

Lancet 2003; 362: 1255-60
17 October 2003

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