Erythropoietin in the management of patients with nonhematologic cancer receiving chemotherapy. Systemic Treatment Program Committee.
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GUIDELINE QUESTIONS: 1) Does erythropoietin (EPO) reduce the need for transfusion of red blood cells in patients receiving chemotherapy for a nonhematologic cancer? 2) Does the administration of EPO improve the quality of life of these cancer patients? OBJECTIVE: To make recommendations regarding the use of EPO to reduce the need for transfusion of red blood cells in patients receiving chemotherapy for a nonhematologic cancer. OUTCOMES: First transfusion requirement from the start of chemotherapy is the main outcome of interest. Quality of life and costs are also considered. PERSPECTIVE (VALUES): Evidence was selected and reviewed by 5 members of the Ontario Cancer Treatment Practice Guidelines Initiative (OCTPGI) and the Systemic Treatment Program Committee (STPC). Drafts of this document have been circulated to and reviewed by members of the STPC. The STPC comprises medical oncologists, pharmacists, supportive care personnel and administrators. No community representative participated in the development of this practice guideline. QUALITY OF EVIDENCE: Eleven randomized controlled trials (RCTs), most placebo-controlled, were available for review. A meta-analysis was performed with 8 trials that shared a clinically relevant outcome measure. Only 1 trial assessed quality of life. BENEFITS: The meta-analysis showed a relative risk for transfusion among EPO patients of 0.64 (95% confidence interval 0.53-0.78), which translates into a 36% relative reduction in the proportion of patients requiring transfusion (p = 0.00001). Reduction in transfusion requirements was similar across strata defined by methodological quality, EPO dose, hematologic status, tumour type at trial entry and chemotherapy regimen. In the 1 trial that assessed quality of life, EPO was associated with improved quality of life. HARMS: Hypertension has been noted rarely in EPO-treated cancer patients. The RCTs did not report adverse effects in EPO-treated patients compared with control patients during the follow-up period. Long-term adverse effects are unknown. EPO is more costly than transfusion, but formal cost-effectiveness studies are unavailable. PRACTICE GUIDELINE: For patients receiving chemotherapy for nonhematologic cancer in whom symptoms of anemia are expected and in whom transfusion of red blood cells is not considered an acceptable treatment option, EPO can be recommended as a safe, effective treatment alternative. The evidence in support of using EPO is stronger for patients receiving platinum-based chemotherapy regimens that for those receiving non-platinum-based regimens. CLINICAL PRACTICE GUIDELINE DATE: Apr. 4, 1997.
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