ONCOLOGY Vol 20 No 8_Suppl_6 | Oncology

Impact of Less Frequent Injections on Patients, Caregivers, and Practices

July 01, 2006

Many factors can affect decisions about chemotherapy and supportive care, including disease outcome, patient quality of life, and drug toxicities. Chemotherapy and supportive therapy may require numerous medical visits that may significantly affect patients and their caregivers. It has recently been shown that practice resources should also be considered in evaluating the full impact of medical visits. To this end, increasing the efficiency of a practice may help ensure the viability of delivering quality care. Greater efficiency can lead to improvements in the quality of life of patients and their caregivers, lower practice operating expenditures, and increase practice capacity and productivity. Chemotherapy-induced anemia is common in patients with cancer, and erythropoiesis-stimulating proteins (ESPs) can lessen its incidence and severity but may require many additional medical visits. This article discusses the importance of establishing efficiency in the oncology practice and considers the role of coordinating tests and procedures, specifically the role of available scheduling options for growth factors. Synchronizing treatments with ESPs and chemotherapy may increase patient convenience and improve practice efficiencies.

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.

The Role of Intravenous Iron in Cancer-Related Anemia

July 01, 2006

Patients with cancer may have an absolute or functional iron deficiency as a result of their disease or its treatment. These conditions can lead to an insufficient supply of iron for incorporation into erythrocytes during supportive care with erythropoiesis-stimulating proteins for chemotherapy. The use of supplemental iron therapy is well established in patients with chronic kidney disease and anemia, but less well studied in the oncology/hematology setting. Furthermore, the use of oral iron formulations in patients with cancer and anemia is limited by poor absorption in the duodenum, arduous dosing requirements (three times a day), and a high likelihood of gastrointestinal side effects. Two recent studies have shown that intravenous (IV) iron (iron dextran or ferric gluconate) increases the hematopoietic response rates in cancer patients who were receiving chemotherapy and treated with epoetin alfa (Procrit) for anemia. The effects on hemoglobin levels and measures of iron metabolism were notably greater with IV iron formulations than with oral iron formulations. The results from several ongoing trials of IV iron in patients treated with epoetin alfa or darbepoetin alfa (Aranesp) for chemotherapy-induced anemia should lead to a greater understanding of the role of IV iron supplementation in improving the hematopoietic responses in these patients.

Quality of Life and Clinical Decisions in Chemotherapy-Induced Anemia

July 01, 2006

Fatigue is common in cancer patients treated with chemotherapy, and it has detrimental effects on their quality of life. Chemotherapy-induced anemia, however, is often under-recognized and under-treated. There is a clear association between hemoglobin (Hgb) levels and fatigue, with fatigue being greater in patients with lower Hgb levels. Managing fatigue requires that its causes be determined and corrected, and it is important that patients report their fatigue. Patients, however, are unlikely to mention such adverse events unless they are asked about them. In addition, busy practitioners generally have very little time to discuss anemia-related fatigue with their patients. Many studies have used the validated quality-of-life instrument Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Fatigue (FACT-F) to assess fatigue and quality of life in patients treated with chemotherapy; these studies have shown a relationship between chemotherapy-induced anemia, fatigue, and quality of life. Studies of erythropoiesis-stimulating proteins to treat chemotherapy-induced anemia have shown increases in patients' hemoglobin levels, improvement in their FACT-F and FACT-General scores, and improvements in their quality of life.

Benefits of Early Intervention With Erythropoiesis-Stimulating Proteins in Chemotherapy-Induced Anemia

July 01, 2006

Anemia is common in patients treated with chemotherapy for both solid and hematologic malignancies, contributing to fatigue and diminished quality of life and exposing them to the inherent risks of red blood cell transfusions. Erythropoiesis-stimulating proteins have been shown to increase hemoglobin levels, reduce the need for transfusions, and improve quality of life. The current practice guidelines recommend treating moderate to severe chemotherapy-induced anemia with erythropoiesis-stimulating proteins, but the risk of transfusions may be less with earlier intervention at higher hemoglobin levels. A review of the literature suggests that treating mild chemotherapy-induced anemia with erythropoiesis-stimulating proteins reduces the risks of transfusions and the development of more-severe anemia. Weighing the clinical evidence together with other clinical and economic considerations should provide greater insight into the benefits of treating mild anemia in patients treated with chemotherapy.

Guidelines for the Use of Erythropoietic Growth Factors in Patients With Chemotherapy-Induced Anemia

July 01, 2006

The use of erythropoietic growth factors to treat chemotherapy-induced anemia (CIA) has been increasing as clinicians become more aware of the ability of these drugs to improve the quality of life of patients with cancer. The cost associated with erythropoietic growth factor therapy makes its appropriate use a practical issue for physicians and hospitals. Clinical practice guidelines can benefit physicians by increasing practice efficiency, reducing medical errors, increasing the quality of medical care, and decreasing reimbursement problems. The American Society of Clinical Oncology and the American Society of Hematology, the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer, and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) have all published guidelines for using erythropoietic growth factors to treat CIA, and this article reviews and summarizes those guidelines. Of the three guidelines for the use of erythropoietic growth factors in CIA, the NCCN guidelines are based on the most recent data. Current evidence indicates that erythropoietic growth factors can increase hemoglobin levels, reduce the need for red blood cell transfusions, and improve quality of life; the effect of erythropoietic therapy on outcomes in patients with CIA is still being investigated.

Optimizing the Dose and Schedule of Darbepoetin Alfa in Patients With Chemotherapy-Induced Anemia

July 01, 2006

Chemotherapy-induced anemia is common in patients who have cancer. Erythropoiesis-stimulating proteins such as epoetin alfa (Procrit) and darbepoetin alfa (Aranesp) have been shown to improve hematologic and clinical outcomes in these patients. Darbepoetin alfa has a longer serum half-life than epoetin alfa, making less frequent administration possible and offering the possibility of synchronizing the administration of erythropoietic therapy and chemotherapy. Several clinical trials have evaluated the utility of darbepoetin alfa given every 3 weeks (q3wk) in patients with chemotherapy-induced anemia. An exploratory study showed that darbepoetin alfa q3wk stabilized hemoglobin levels and reduced transfusion requirements. It was also shown that giving darbepoetin alfa q3wk at the same time as the chemotherapy produced hematopoietic benefits similar to those observed when it is given later in the chemotherapy cycle. The q3wk dosing schedule was effective in patients with mild and moderate anemia, and treatment goals were achieved in most of them. The equivalence of q3wk and qwk darbepoetin alfa has also been established. Synchronous administration of darbepoetin alfa with chemotherapy is a convenient option for patients with chemotherapy-induced anemia, with clinical trials showing it to be an effective treatment strategy.