- The effectiveness of erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs) for the treatment of anemia in patients with non-myeloid hematological malignancies needs to be assessed as the response to their administration is not uniform and their cost is high. We conducted a systematic review (SR) of the literature to identify reports of the effect of ESAs on survival, quality of life (QOL), transfusion requirements, and anemia. The entries to MEDLINE, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Library databases, and abstracts published in the proceedings of the annual meetings of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the American Society of Hematology were searched. Seventeen reports and five abstracts of randomized trials fulfilled prospective criteria for inclusion. Five trials reported on survival; three failed to detect differences between groups and two demonstrated inferior survival in patients allocated to an ESA. Seven trials and three abstracts reported on QOL with four articles and three abstracts describing improvements in patients allocated to erythropoietin. However, important methodologic limitations were identified in these reports. Seven randomized controlled trials reported a reduction in the proportion of patients transfused. The absolute risk reduction in transfusions ranged from 15% to 24%. This is the only SR that assesses the use of erythropoiesis-stimulating agents specifically in patients with hematological malignancies. We conclude that available data evaluating ESAs in patients with hematologic malignancies demonstrate that these agents reduce transfusion requirements. Limitations of these data preclude conclusions that these agents improve QOL. More data are required to confirm the inferior survival associated with ESAs.