Epoetin alfa improves quality of life in patients with cancer: results of metaanalysis

Cancer. 2004 Oct 15;101(8):1720-32. doi: 10.1002/cncr.20569.


Background: Anemia in patients with cancer causes fatigue, weakness, and impaired concentration, negatively impacting quality of life (QOL). In clinical trials involving patients with cancer who had varied characteristics, it has been shown that epoetin alfa treatment increased hemoglobin levels and improved QOL. A systematic review and metaanalysis of data from those trials was conducted to summarize existing knowledge on the role of epoetin alfa in improving QOL for anemic patients with cancer.

Methods: The Cochrane Library and other data bases were searched for published and unpublished, randomized/controlled and single-arm studies that included > or = 20 patients with cancer per arm, epoetin alfa treatment, and QOL assessment by Cancer Linear Assessment Score (CLAS), Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy (FACT) scale, Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) scale, and/or Medical Outcomes Study Short-Form 36 (SF-36) scale.

Results: Among 11,459 patients from 23 trials, epoetin alfa and control cohorts were indistinguishable (with regard to demographic, clinical, QOL variables) at baseline. Epoetin alfa improved CLAS (20-25%), FACT-Fatigue (17%), and FACT-Anemia (12%) scores (P = 0.05). ECOG scores worsened for control cohorts (P = 0.05); epoetin alfa cohorts remained unchanged. Four of the SF-36 subscales, Physical Function, Role Physical, Vitality, and Social Function, improved with epoetin alfa (P = 0.05). Results adjusted for confounding factors remained consistent.

Conclusions: This metaanalysis confirmed that epoetin alfa improves QOL significantly in patients with cancer, emphasizing the need to manage anemia in this population.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anemia / drug therapy*
  • Anemia / etiology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Epoetin Alfa
  • Erythropoietin / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Hematinics / therapeutic use*
  • Hemoglobins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Placebos
  • Quality of Life*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Recombinant Proteins


  • Hematinics
  • Hemoglobins
  • Placebos
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Erythropoietin
  • Epoetin Alfa