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Erythropoietin use in oncology: a summary of the evidence and practice guidelines comparing efforts of the Cochrane Review group and Blue Cross/Blue Shield to set up the ASCO/ASH guidelines.

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H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, University of South Florida, 12902 Magnolia Dr, Tampa, FL 33612, USA.


Clinical research evidence on outcomes of using epoetin (EPO) to treat or prevent anemia in oncology has recently been systematically synthesized to provide a scientific foundation for developing and implementing clinical practice guidelines. Two groups have distinguished themselves by their meticulous research methods, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association Technology Evaluation Center (BCBSA TEC) and the Cochrane Review Group (CRG), and have summarized existing research evidence on the role of EPO in anemia associated with cancer treatment. An ASH/ASCO (American Society of Hematology/American Society of Clinical Oncology) panel has used the BCBSA TEC review to develop practice guidelines on the use of EPO in patients with cancer. The ASH/ASCO guideline panel identified eight important clinical circumstances for which use of EPO in oncology might be considered and used the BCBSA TEC evidence review to formulate evidence-based guidelines that support use of EPO. Both BCBSA TEC and CRG found solid evidence exists to show that EPO improves hemoglobin levels and reduce the risk for transfusion. The ASH/ASCO panel concluded that best empirical evidence exists to support the use of EPO to correct anemia due to chemotherapy if Hgb</=10g/dl. In other clinical circumstances the ASH/ASCO panel made recommendations either by extrapolating evidence from similar settings or relied on expert opinion since sufficient evidence was lacking. Both BCBSA TEC and CRG also concluded that limited evidence exists that EPO improves symptoms, fatigue, or quality of life, particularly when anemia is less severe. The finding from these systematic reviews are also reflected in the opinion of the ASH/ASCO guidelines panel, which also concluded that better evidence is needed to support use of EPO in oncology under these circumstances. In this paper, the findings from the guidelines set by ASH/ASCO that were culled from systematic reviews by BCBSA TEC and the Cochrane Review are compared and contrasted.

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