Erythropoietin in cancer patients: pros and cons

Curr Opin Oncol. 2010 Jul;22(4):307-11. doi: 10.1097/CCO.0b013e32833aa9de.


Purpose of review: Anaemia is a frequent complication of cancer. Recently, some concerns have appeared regarding the safety of erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs) for the treatment of anaemia in cancer patients. The current review will analyse the main arguments in favour of erythropoietin (EPO), as well as those against EPO in chemotherapy-induced anaemia and in cancer-related anaemia. The principal concerns are tumour progression, increased mortality and the risk of venous thromboembolic events (VTEs). Recent meta-analyses have come to divergent conclusions.

Recent findings: Several meta-analyses have reviewed the data regarding VTEs, EPO receptors on tumours and tumour progression as well as mortality.

Summary: As of now, ESAs should only be used within the indications as given in the various guidelines.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anemia / complications
  • Anemia / drug therapy*
  • Anemia / metabolism
  • Disease Progression
  • Erythropoietin / metabolism*
  • Hematinics / adverse effects
  • Hematinics / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / chemically induced
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Red-Cell Aplasia, Pure / chemically induced
  • Risk Assessment
  • Seizures / chemically induced


  • Hematinics
  • Erythropoietin