Breast cancer patients undergoing therapeutic regimens of high-dose chemotherapy (HDCT) with circulating progenitor cell support often develop anemia. As a general consideration in the transplantation setting, red blood cell transfusions are normally required in patients who have passed the myeloablative phase after HDCT. In the initial 30-day period immediately following HDCT, the number of red blood cell units that are transfused will usually depend on a number of factors, including whether the transplantation was allogeneic or autologous. Observations and results from clinical studies have shown that the establishment of normal erythropoiesis varies depending on the source of the transplanted cells, resulting in different transfusion requirements. Several studies support the use of recombinant human erythropoietin (rHuEPO, epoetin alfa) after HDCT to ameliorate anemia and reduce transfusion requirements. Studies have also shown that administration of epoetin alfa prior to the myeloablative phase is an effective method for reducing red blood cell transfusion requirements in breast cancer patients receiving HDCT. Epoetin alfa in combination with other cytokines has been shown to positively affect the mobilization phase of hematopoietic progenitor cells for autografting. Furthermore, treatment with epoetin alfa could prove useful in bone marrow transplant recipients who experience delayed anemia. Recent studies that have addressed these topics in breast cancer indicate that, when used in the appropriate setting, epoetin alfa may play a role as a tool to decrease the need for red blood cell transfusion in patients undergoing HDCT plus autologous circulating progenitor cell support.
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