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Anaemia in cancer patients: pathophysiology, incidence and treatment


C. Bokemeyer, MD, Department of Oncology, Haematology, Bone Marrow. Transplantation and Pneumology, University of Eppendorf Medical Center, Martinistrasse 52, 20246 Hamburg, Germany. Tel.: +49 4042 8032 960; fax: +49 4042 8038 054; e-mail:


This review focuses on the pathophysiology, incidence and treatment of anaemia in cancer patients. Causative factors such as different chemotherapy regimens and patient risk factors for the development of anaemia are discussed in order to identify the patient group that is most likely to receive red blood cell transfusions and would thus have the largest benefit from treatment with erythropoietic proteins. The data available with recombinant human erythropoietin alfa, recombinant human erythropoietin beta and darbepoetin alfa are described in more detail and the significant benefit of treating cancer anaemia by these molecules is outlined. Finally, differences in treatment approaches between these erythropoietic proteins are discussed in order to guide treatment decisions specific for the individual patients’ situation.

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