From Trousseau to targeted therapy: new insights and innovations in thrombosis and cancer
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Venous thromboembolism (VTE) commonly occurs in patients with malignant disease. At the 1997 ISTH meeting, cancer and thrombosis was discussed in a state-of-the-art symposium. Since then, there have been many new developments on this topic. Tumors, through expression of tissue factor can activate coagulation. Furthermore, local peritumor activation of coagulation may have important effects on the biology of cancer. A randomized trial has been conducted which evaluated extensive screening to detect underlying malignancy vs. no screening in patients presenting with idiopathic VTE. No statistically significant difference was detected in cancer-related mortality between the two groups. A trial has evaluated extended prophylaxis in patients undergoing surgery for abdominal malignancy. There was a statistically significant reduction in venographically detected deep vein thrombosis in favor of 4 weeks of treatment. In contrast, there is clearly a need for more information on the use of thromboprophylaxis in medical cancer patients. Low molecular weight heparin (LMWH) has replaced unfractionated heparin as the first line treatment in the majority of patients with acute VTE. Many cancer patients with acute VTE can be treated safely at home with subcutaneous LMWH without admission to hospital. The results of a recent trial demonstrated that long-term low molecular weight heparin administered over a 6-month period substantially reduced the rate of recurrent VTE compared with oral anticoagulant therapy with no increase in bleeding. Finally, the first trial specifically designed to evaluate the anticancer effect of long-term LMWH in cancer patients has been conducted and will no doubt stimulate future research.
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