The effect of epoetin alfa on quality of life in anemic cancer patients

David Cella*, Dominique Bron

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this paper is to review evidence on the use of Epoetin alfa in the treatment of anemia associated with cancer treatment through a discussion of clinical and quality-of-life considerations. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Cancer patients often experience fatigue, which leads to reduced quality of life. There are few effective treatments available to manage this potentially debilitating symptom, which can lead clinicians to become discouraged about treating fatigue. When cancer-related fatigue is due to anemia, there are viable treatment options. This paper reviews the current management of anemia in cancer patients, with an emphasis on the use of recombinant human erythropoietin (Epoetin alfa). CONCLUSIONS: Anemia can contribute to the reduced quality of the experienced by cancer patients. Blood transfusion, the traditional method of treating anemia, is effective and relatively inexpensive, but is associated with certain risks and is subject to limitations in blood supply. Epoetin alfa therapy provides healthcare providers with an effective alternative to blood transfusion, and trial results suggest that this intervention has a positive effect on patients' quality of life. The optimal starting and stopping points for therapy have not yet been determined. In practice, many physicians begin treatment when hemoglobin levels drop below 10 g/dL and stop when they rise above 13 g/dL, with a 75% dose reduction until completion of chemotherapy if hemoglobin again drops below 12 g/dL. Nonresponse (<1 g/dL rise in hemoglobin) is met with dose increase at 4 weeks and discontinuation after 8 weeks. Controlled studies comparing anemia management via transfusion to the use of Epoetin alfa, have not been done to date. Therefore, the relative cost-effectiveness of Epoetin alfa, an effective but expensive intervention, remains unknown.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)177-182
Number of pages6
JournalCancer practice
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 1999


  • Anemia
  • Epoetin alfa
  • Erythropoietin
  • Fatigue
  • Quality of life

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Oncology

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