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Study produces conflicting findings on the use of anti-anemia drug in cancer patients

LOS ANGELES Results from a phase III drug trial indicate that an anti-anemia drug did not significantly decrease the need for blood transfusions in patients not on chemotherapy, and decreased overall patient survival when compared to placebo, according to researchers from the UCLA Medical Center at the 2007 Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.

The drug, darbepoetin alfa (DA) is a synthetic form of erythropoietin, a hormone that signals the formation of new red blood cells from within the bone marrow. DA is commonly used as a means of combating anemia in cancer patients who are also receiving chemotherapy. Anemia in cancer patients can result from either chemotherapy or the cancer itself, and it has a measurable effect on quality of life and overall cancer survival.

While some cancer patients not undergoing chemotherapy are also given DA, previous placebo-controlled studies did not show that darbepoetin significantly reduced transfusion risk.

"While the study was not specifically designed to study survival rates, our results indicate a statistically significant decrease in patients given the drug versus those who were given placebo," said John Glaspy, M.D., professor at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine. "Since erythropoietic agents are sometimes used in the U. S. to treat anemia and reduce transfusion risk in patients not on chemotherapy, these results are of concern to the research and clinical cancer communities."

The trial was designed to examine the ability of darbepoetin to reduce the need for blood transfusions in patients with active cancer not undergoing chemotherapy. The trial, held in clinical sites throughout North America, Europe and Australia was supported by the drug's manufacturer, Amgen.

Approximately 1,000 people were enrolled in the study, which was open to patients with most forms of cancer, except myeloid or acute leukemia and Burkitt'
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Contact: Staci Vernick Goldberg
goldberg@aacr.org
267-646-0616
American Association for Cancer Research
16-Apr-2007


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