Expert Review of Anticancer Therapy vol:12 issue:11 pages:1383-1390
For years, the treatment of chemotherapy-induced anemia (CIA) consisted of red blood cell transfusions. Major disadvantages of transfusions are their temporary effect and limitation to treatment of severe anemia. In an extensive clinical trial program in patients with CIA, darbepoetin alfa (DA) - a long-acting recombinant human erythropoietin - was proven to be very effective in reducing transfusion needs in patients developing CIA. The administration is suitable with most chemotherapy schemes. Caution is needed in patients with a history of thrombo-embolic events, as a slightly higher incidence of these events is noted in patients treated with darbepoetin alfa or erythropoietin substitution agents (ESAs) in general. In recent years, concerns have been raised about a potential negative influence of these agents on survival. In this respect, it is important to make the distinction between studies on the treatment of existing CIA versus treatment with ESAs outside this indication. On the other hand, it has always been assumed that transfusions were a completely safe treatment, but concerns about a potential negative effect on survival have been raised for transfusions as well. The safety concerns with DA and ESAs in general led to a pharmacovigilance program and an adaptation of the guidelines for treatment of CIA, focusing on treatment of moderate CIA but no longer on mild CIA. Now that the most recent safety data of the pharmacovigilance program of ESAs is almost completed, the clinical impact of the shift to the treatment of only moderate anemia is discussed in this review, which provides a critical view on the indications of DA and the benefit-risk assessment, in order to provide good supportive care without harm to the patient.