Novel approaches to anemia associated with cancer and chemotherapy are reviewed. Anemia in cancer patients is usually related to treatment with antineoplastic agents or to the disease itself. The normal concentration of endogenous erythropoietin ranges from 0.1 to 0.2 μU/mL and may increase to 2-10 μU/mL in patients with severe anemia. Many cancer patients with anemia do not have an increase in erythropoietin levels, however. Recombinant human erythropoietin (epoetin alfa), the standard for treating anemia caused by chronic renal failure, is also used to treat cancer chemotherapy-related anemia. It resolves anemia, decreases the need for transfusions, and may improve a patient's quality of life. A newer erythropoiesis-stimulating protein, darbepoetin alfa, was initially evaluated in patients with chronic renal disease. In patients who had never taken epoetin alfa, darbepoetin alfa was able to achieve a hemoglobin concentration of 11 g/dL by four weeks in most patients, and 97% of patients maintained on epoetin alfa were successfully switched to the other drug. Similar positive results were achieved in patients with solid tumors receiving chemotherapy, patients with anemia of chronic disease associated with cancer, and patients with lymphoproliferative malignancies. Darbepoetin alfa has a longer half-life than epoetin alfa, enabling less frequent administration. No difference in toxicity between the two agents has been reported. Epoetin alfa and darbepoetin alfa are effective in the treatment of anemia in patients with cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S8-S11
JournalAmerican Journal of Health-System Pharmacy
Issue numberSUPPL.
StatePublished - Aug 1 2002


  • Anemia
  • Antianemia drugs
  • Antineoplastic agents
  • Darbepoetin alfa
  • Epoetin alfa
  • Half life
  • Toxicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Health Policy


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