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Keywords:

  • anaemia;
  • erythropoietin;
  • chronic lymphocytic leukaemia;
  • non-Hodgkin's lymphoma;
  • multiple myeloma

Summary. Epoetin beta, three-times weekly (t.i.w.), is effective in reversing anaemia in lymphoproliferative disorders. The current study investigated whether an epoetin beta dose of 30 000 IU given subcutaneously once weekly (q.w.) was at least as effective as 10 000 t.i.w. administration in anaemic patients with lymphoproliferative malignancy and defective endogenous erythropoietin (Epo) production. Overall, 241 anaemic patients with multiple myeloma, low-grade non-Hodgkin's lymphoma or chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, all with serum Epo values ≤ 100 mU/ml, were randomized to receive the q.w. (n = 119) or t.i.w. (n = 122) regimen for 16 weeks. The primary efficacy criterion, i.e. the time-adjusted area under the haemoglobin–time curve from weeks 5–16, was comparable between the q.w. and t.i.w. groups [difference = − 0·20 g/dl (90% confidence interval − 0·52–0·11)]. Moreover, response rates were high and similar in both arms (72%vs 75%, q.w. and t.i.w. groups respectively). Baseline serum Epo was predictive of response: the lower serum Epo, the higher the likelihood of response (P = 0·002). Thus, epoetin beta administered q.w. is an effective and convenient treatment for anaemia in patients with lymphoproliferative disorders. Tailoring this treatment modality to subjects with defective endogenous Epo production represents a rational use of epoetin from both a medical and a community perspective.