Coagulation and cancer: biological and clinical aspects

J Thromb Haemost. 2013 Feb;11(2):223-33. doi: 10.1111/jth.12075.


Malignancy affects the hemostatic system and the hemostatic system affects malignancy. In cancer patients there are a number of coagulation abnormalities which provide the background for an increased tendency of these patients to both thrombosis and hemorrhage. The causes of this coagulation impairment rely on general risk factors which are common to other categories of patients, and other factors which are specific to cancer, such as tumor type and disease stage. In addition, data from basic research indicate that the hemostatic components and the cancer biology are interconnected in multiple ways. Notably, while cancer cells are able to activate the coagulation system, the hemostatic factors play a role in tumor progression. This opens the way to the development of bifunctional therapeutic approaches that are both capable of attacking the malignant process and resolving the coagulation impairment. On the other hand, the management of thrombosis and hemorrhages in cancer patients can be different. To approach these problems, some guidelines have been released by prominent international scientific societies. Also actively investigated is the issue of identifying new biomarkers to classify the subjects at a higher risk, thus improving the prevention of thrombohemorrhagic events in these patients. Finally, novel prophylactic and therapeutic approaches are currently under development. This review provides an overview of the hemostatic complications in cancer, together with new insights into the interaction between hemostasis and cancer biology. We also review the assessment of the risk of thrombohemorrhagic events in cancer patients, and the prophylaxis and treatment of such manifestations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Blood Coagulation* / drug effects
  • Coagulants / therapeutic use
  • Fibrinolytic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Hemorrhage / blood
  • Hemorrhage / drug therapy
  • Hemorrhage / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / blood
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Thrombosis / blood
  • Thrombosis / drug therapy
  • Thrombosis / etiology*


  • Anticoagulants
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Coagulants
  • Fibrinolytic Agents