Recombinant human erythropoietin for the correction of cancer associated anemia with and without concomitant cytotoxic chemotherapy

H Ludwig, E Sundal, M Pecherstorfer, C Leitgeb, T Bauernhofer, A Beinhauer, H Samonigg, A W Kappeler, E Fritz

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

131 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Chronic anemia is a common complication in patients with cancer, especially in those with advanced disease or who are under intensive chemotherapy. Because homologous blood transfusions involve some hazards, the safety and efficacy of recombinant human erythropoietin (r-HuEPO) in the treatment of anemic patients with cancer with and without concomitant chemotherapy were studied.

METHODS: One-hundred two cancer patients with hemoglobin less than 11 g/dl, ferritin greater than 30 micrograms/l, and creatinine < 220 mumol/l were enrolled in the study, 94 were eligible for efficacy evaluation. Sixty-eight patients received chemotherapy (CT group) and 26 had no cytotoxic cancer treatment (NT group). Recombinant human erythropoietin was administered subcutaneously at a dose of 150 U/kg three times per week for 6 weeks; in nonresponders the dose was doubled for the subsequent 6 weeks. Response was defined as the achievement of a hemoglobin increase of 2g/dl. Clinical and laboratory parameters, including serum erythropoietin (EPO) levels, performance status, and quality of life, were investigated at baseline and monitored at regular intervals thereafter.

RESULTS: Response was achieved by 52% and 62% of CT and NT patients, respectively. The highest response rates were observed in patients with lung cancer or with a histology of squamous cell carcinoma (both 80%). In responding patients, the symptoms of anemia subsided. They no longer needed blood transfusions after 4 weeks of therapy; and both their performance status and quality of life improved significantly. The NT patients achieved slightly more favorable results on lower weekly doses: 450 U/kg/week in NT versus 570 U/kg/week in CT patients. Serum EPO levels were higher in nonresponders at baseline and further increased during the course of treatment. Recombinant human erythropoietin was well tolerated by all patients.

CONCLUSION: This multicenter study in a large patient collective shows that r-HuEPO treatment represents a safe and effective means to increase the red cell mass and eliminate the need for blood transfusions in approximately 50% of the patients with chronic anemia of cancer. Responding patients not only have increased levels of hemoglobin, but their performance status also improves significantly, and they enjoy a significantly enhanced quality of life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2319-29
Number of pages11
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anemia/drug therapy
  • Antineoplastic Agents/therapeutic use
  • Blood Transfusion
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell/complications
  • Chronic Disease
  • Creatinine/blood
  • Erythrocyte Volume
  • Erythropoietin/administration & dosage
  • Female
  • Ferritins/blood
  • Hemoglobins/analysis
  • Humans
  • Injections, Subcutaneous
  • Lung Neoplasms/complications
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms/complications
  • Quality of Life
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Remission Induction


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