Chemotherapy-related anemia often results from decreased production of the hormone erythropoietin, a hormone that stimulates the formation of red blood cells. Anemia can be treated with red blood cell transfusions, but risks associated with this procedure include adverse reactions and infection.
A newer approach to treating anemia has been the use of recombinant human erythropoietin (rHuEPO). However, to sufficiently increase levels of hemoglobin (the oxygen-carrying component of red blood cells) and reduce the number of blood transfusions, a patient must receive treatment three times a week. The erythropoietic protein darbepoetin alfa, an analogue of rHuEPO, stays in the blood for longer periods of time and can be given less frequently.
In randomized, placebo-controlled phase III trial of the safety and efficacy of darbepoetin alfa, Johan Vansteenkiste, M.D., Ph.D., of the University Hospital Gasthuisberg in Belgium, and his colleagues from the Aranesp 980297 Study Group, treated 321 anemic patients receiving chemotherapy for lung cancer with either weekly injections of darbepoetin alfa or a placebo.
By 12 weeks, patients receiving darbepoetin alfa required about half as many blood transfusions, nearly a third fewer units of blood, had elevated hemoglobin levels, and experienced significantly less fatigue than patients given the placebo. Adverse events were similar to those in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, and were similar in both groups. Overall survival rates were not statistically significantly different between the two treatment groups.
The dosing advantage of darbepoetin alfa could allow patients to miss less time from work and poten
Contact: Linda Wang
Journal of the National Cancer Institute