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Keywords:

  • anemia;
  • epoetin alfa;
  • hematologic malignancies;
  • quality of life;
  • productivity

Abstract

BACKGROUND

Chemotherapy-related anemia is prevalent among patients with hematologic malignancies. A randomized, open-label, multicenter trial of early versus late epoetin alfa in this population was conducted, focusing on quality of life (QOL).

METHODS

Patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, or multiple myeloma and baseline hemoglobin of 10 to 12 g/dL who were scheduled for ≥4 months of myelosuppressive chemotherapy were randomized to receive ≤16 weeks of epoetin alfa at a dose of 40,000 U once weekly immediately (early) or to wait and only receive epoetin alfa if hemoglobin decreased to <9 g/dL (late). Those patients with a hemoglobin level >12 g/dL after 3 chemotherapy cycles were not randomized. The primary endpoint was a mean change in the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Anemia (FACT-An) total.

RESULTS

In all, 269 patients with a hemoglobin level ≤12 g/dL were randomized. The mean total FACT-An increased 3.84 (95% confidence interval [95% CI], 0.21–7.46) in early patients and decreased 4.37 (95% CI, −7.99 to −0.74) in late patients (P = .003). Early patients had significantly (P < .05) higher mean scores for total FACT-General; FACT-General physical and functional well-being subscales, total anemia scale, and fatigue subscale; and daily activity, energy, and important activity Linear Analog Scale Assessment scales, as well as reduced bedrest days and restricted activity days. The mean hemoglobin increased 1.2 g/dL (95% CI, 0.98–1.46) in early patients but decreased 0.2 g/dL (95% CI, −0.32–0.12) in late patients (P < .0001). Adverse events were similar between groups (with fatigue being the most prevalent); clinically relevant thromboembolic events were more common in early patients.

CONCLUSIONS

Treating mild anemia immediately with epoetin alfa during chemotherapy for hematologic malignancy significantly improved QOL, productivity, and hemoglobin compared with delaying treatment until the hemoglobin level decreases to <9.0 g/dL. Cancer 2006. © 2006 American Cancer Society.