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Gemcitabine has been associated with an increased risk of arterial and venous thromboembolic events (ATEs and VTEs), although the overall risk remains unclear. As indications for its use in oncology are expanding, a comprehensive characterization of these complications becomes imperative.
Pubmed was searched for articles published from 1 January 1990 to 31 December 2012. Eligible studies included prospective randomized controlled phase II and III trials evaluating gemcitabine based vs. non-gemcitabine based chemotherapy in patients with solid tumours. Data on VTEs and ATEs were extracted. Overall incidence rates, odds ratio (OR), and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated employing fixed or random effects models depending on the heterogeneity of included trials.
A total of 4845 patients from 19 trials were included. Among patients treated with gemcitabine based chemotherapy, the overall incidence of VTEs (13 studies comprising 3823 patients) and ATEs (eight studies consisting of 2431 patients) was 2.1% (95% CI 1.2%, 3.8%) and 2.2% (95% CI 1.4%, 3.2%). The associated ORs of VTEs and ATEs were 1.56 (95% CI 0.86, 2.83, P = 0.15) and 1.82 (95% CI 0.89, 3.75, P = 0.10) compared with non-gemcitabine based therapy. A tendency to increase the risk of ATE and VTEs was also detected in any prespecified subgroup.
The use of gemcitabine does not significantly increase the risk of VTEs and ATEs in patients with solid tumours when compared with non-gemcitabine based chemotherapy.