David J. Straus, MD | Authors

Management of Anemia in Patients With Hematologic Malignancies

July 01, 2006

Anemia is common in patients with hematologic malignancies, and it has negative effects on their quality of life. The current clinical practice guidelines recommend erythropoietic therapy in patients with cancer- or chemotherapy-related anemia, but anemia is often undertreated in patients with hematologic malignancies. Several randomized controlled trials have shown that treatment with erythropoiesis-stimulating proteins such as epoetin alfa (Procrit), epoetin beta, and darbepoetin alfa (Aranesp) increases hemoglobin levels, reduces the need for red blood cell transfusions, and improves quality of life in patients with hematologic malignancies and anemia receiving chemotherapy. Furthermore, preliminary data from a recent open-label study suggest that early treatment of mild anemia in patients with hematologic malignancies treated with chemotherapy produces marked improvements in quality of life and productivity. Increasing patients' hemoglobin levels may also improve their cognitive function. These findings support the use of erythropoietic therapy to manage anemia in patients with hematologic malignancies who are treated with chemotherapy.