Anemia is a common disorder in patients with cancer and can be caused by the disease itself or by cancer-related therapy. The cardinal symptom of anemia, fatigue, is the most commonly reported symptom in patients with cancer and has profound effects on patient well-being and quality of life. Until recently, blood transfusions were the mainstay of management of cancer-related anemia, despite attendant risks of transfusion-related reactions and transmission of infection. Recombinant human erythropoietin (epoetin-α), an effective alternative to blood transfusion, has been shown to improve hematologic parameters, including hemoglobin levels, Hematocrit, and transfusion requirements. Clinical trials have also suggested that this intervention has a positive impact on the quality of life of patients with cancer. The literature published between November 2000 and October 2001 continues to support a positive effect of epoetin-α therapy on the quality of life of patients with cancer and includes investigations of dosing schedules more convenient for patients and trials of longer-acting versions of epoetin-α, such as the novel erythropoiesis-stimulating protein. Future studies that incorporate measures of patient-reported outcomes and rigorous methodologic designs are needed to strengthen and elucidate this association between these pharmacologic therapies for cancer-related anemia and quality of life.
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