Managing thrombocytopenia associated with cancer chemotherapy

Oncology (Williston Park). 2015 Apr;29(4):282-94.


Thrombocytopenia is a common problem in cancer patients. Aside from bleeding risk, thrombocytopenia limits chemotherapy dose and frequency. In evaluating thrombocytopenic cancer patients, it is important to assess for other causes of thrombocytopenia, including immune thrombocytopenia, coagulopathy, infection, drug reaction, post-transfusion purpura, and thrombotic microangiopathy. The incidence of chemotherapy-induced thrombocytopenia varies greatly depending on the treatment used; the highest rates of this condition are associated with gemcitabine- and platinum-based regimens. Each chemotherapy agent differs in how it causes thrombocytopenia: alkylating agents affect stem cells, cyclophosphamide affects later megakaryocyte progenitors, bortezomib prevents platelet release from megakaryocytes, and some treatments promote platelet apoptosis. Thrombopoietin is the main regulator of platelet production. In numerous studies, recombinant thrombopoietin raised the platelet count nadir, reduced the need for platelet transfusions, reduced the duration of thrombocytopenia, and allowed maintenance of chemotherapy dose intensity. Two thrombopoietin receptor agonists now available, romiplostim and eltrombopag, are potent stimulators of platelet production. Although few studies have been completed to demonstrate their ability to treat chemotherapy-induced thrombocytopenia, these agents may be useful in treating this condition in some situations. Chemotherapy dose reduction and platelet transfusions remain the major treatments for affected patients.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Benzoates / therapeutic use*
  • Cisplatin / administration & dosage
  • Cisplatin / adverse effects
  • Deoxycytidine / administration & dosage
  • Deoxycytidine / adverse effects
  • Deoxycytidine / analogs & derivatives
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Humans
  • Hydrazines / therapeutic use*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Platelet Count
  • Platelet Transfusion / methods
  • Pyrazoles / therapeutic use*
  • Receptors, Fc / therapeutic use*
  • Receptors, Thrombopoietin / agonists
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / therapeutic use*
  • Thrombocytopenia / chemically induced*
  • Thrombocytopenia / therapy*
  • Thrombopoiesis / drug effects
  • Thrombopoietin / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Benzoates
  • Hydrazines
  • Pyrazoles
  • Receptors, Fc
  • Receptors, Thrombopoietin
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Deoxycytidine
  • Thrombopoietin
  • gemcitabine
  • romiplostim
  • Cisplatin
  • eltrombopag