Background: Tumor anemia is a common symptom in cancer patients. This study assessed the prognostic relationship of pretreatment serum hemoglobin levels to survival in a retrospective sample of 206 patients with epithelial ovarian carcinoma.
Methods: Survival analysis was evaluated by univariate (Kaplan-Meier product limit method and log rank test) and multivariate (Cox proportional hazards model) analysis. Mean values were compared by the Kruskal-Wallis test. Serum hemoglobin levels were determined in each patient 24-48 hours before surgery. Anemia was defined as a serum hemoglobin value below 12 g/dL.
Results: Tumor anemia was present in 32% of the patients before primary surgery. Hemoglobin levels were significantly lower in patients with residual tumor than in those with no detectable residual tumor after initial surgery (P = 0.008). Although statistically not significant, we found a trend toward lower hemoglobin levels with advanced stage of disease. For 5 years, overall survival probability was 38.5% and 52.3% for patients with pretreatment hemoglobin levels P = 0.008). In multivariate analysis, the relative risk of death was significantly associated with decreasing serum hemoglobin levels. No interaction was found between the grade of anemia and chemotherapy or radiation therapy with respect to its influence on overall survival.
Conclusions: After adjustment for established prognostic factors, tumor anemia was found to have an independent relationship to the overall survival of patients with ovarian carcinoma. Because no significant interaction could be found between the grade of anemia and chemotherapy, marked tumor anemia was considered an indicator of the presence of biologically aggressive tumor cell clones.