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Keywords:

  • Anticoagulant;
  • Bleeding;
  • Cancer;
  • Clinical practice guidelines;
  • GRADE system;
  • Venous thromboembolism

Summary.  Background: Guidelines addressing the management of venous thromboembolism (VTE) in cancer patients are heterogeneous and their implementation has been suboptimal worldwide. Objectives: To establish a common international consensus addressing practical, clinically relevant questions in this setting. Methods: An international consensus working group of experts was set up to develop guidelines according to an evidence-based medicine approach, using the GRADE system. Results: For the initial treatment of established VTE: low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH) is recommended [1B]; fondaparinux and unfractionated heparin (UFH) can be also used [2D]; thrombolysis may only be considered on a case-by-case basis [Best clinical practice (Guidance)]; vena cava filters (VCF) may be considered if contraindication to anticoagulation or pulmonary embolism recurrence under optimal anticoagulation; periodic reassessment of contraindications to anticoagulation is recommended and anticoagulation should be resumed when safe; VCF are not recommended for primary VTE prophylaxis in cancer patients [Guidance]. For the early maintenance (10 days to 3 months) and long-term (beyond 3 months) treatment of established VTE, LMWH for a minimum of 3 months is preferred over vitamin K antagonists (VKA) [1A]; idraparinux is not recommended [2C]; after 3–6 months, LMWH or VKA continuation should be based on individual evaluation of the benefit-risk ratio, tolerability, patient preference and cancer activity [Guidance]. For the treatment of VTE recurrence in cancer patients under anticoagulation, three options can be considered: (i) switch from VKA to LMWH when treated with VKA; (ii) increase in LMWH dose when treated with LMWH, and (iii) VCF insertion [Guidance]. For the prophylaxis of postoperative VTE in surgical cancer patients, use of LMWH o.d. or low dose of UFH t.i.d. is recommended; pharmacological prophylaxis should be started 12–2 h preoperatively and continued for at least 7–10 days; there are no data allowing conclusion that one type of LMWH is superior to another [1A]; there is no evidence to support fondaparinux as an alternative to LMWH [2C]; use of the highest prophylactic dose of LMWH is recommended [1A]; extended prophylaxis (4 weeks) after major laparotomy may be indicated in cancer patients with a high risk of VTE and low risk of bleeding [2B]; the use of LMWH for VTE prevention in cancer patients undergoing laparoscopic surgery may be recommended as for laparotomy [Guidance]; mechanical methods are not recommended as monotherapy except when pharmacological methods are contraindicated [2C]. For the prophylaxis of VTE in hospitalized medical patients with cancer and reduced mobility, we recommend prophylaxis with LMWH, UFH or fondaparinux [1B]; for children and adults with acute lymphocytic leukemia treated with l-asparaginase, depending on local policy and patient characteristics, prophylaxis may be considered in some patients [Guidance]; in patients receiving chemotherapy, prophylaxis is not recommended routinely [1B]; primary pharmacological prophylaxis of VTE may be indicated in patients with locally advanced or metastatic pancreatic [1B] or lung [2B] cancer treated with chemotherapy and having a low risk of bleeding; in patients treated with thalidomide or lenalidomide combined with steroids and/or chemotherapy, VTE prophylaxis is recommended; in this setting, VKA at low or therapeutic doses, LMWH at prophylactic doses and low-dose aspirin have shown similar effects; however, the efficacy of these regimens remains unclear [2C]. Special situations include brain tumors, severe renal failure (CrCl < 30 mL min−1), thrombocytopenia and pregnancy. Guidances are provided in these contexts. Conclusions: Dissemination and implementation of good clinical practice for the management of VTE, the second cause of death in cancer patients, is a major public health priority.