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Cancer. 2002 Aug 1;95(3):613-23.

Standards of care for anemia management in oncology: focus on lung carcinoma.

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Department of Thoracic Oncology, Fox Chase Cancer Center, 7701 Burholme Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19111, USA.



Anemia is common in patients with lung carcinoma, particularly among those undergoing platinum-based cytotoxic chemotherapy. Evidence is growing that anemia can have a profound impact on the patient's quality of life, often manifested as the patient's inability to function normally.


A literature review was conducted to provide a current picture of the incidence and impact of anemia in patients with lung carcinoma and the usage and limitations of current treatment.


The incidence of anemia (a hemoglobin [Hb] level < 11g/dL) in lung carcinoma patients is approximately 50-60%, varying according to treatment regimen. However, despite evidence supporting the treatment of anemia, many clinicians only intervene when Hb levels fall below 8 g/dL. This may be because of a lack of awareness of the incidence and impact of anemia on cancer patients, but most likely is because of limitations of current treatment options (blood transfusion and recombinant human erythropoietin [epoetin-alpha]). Darbepoetin-alpha represents a new generation of erythropoiesis-stimulating proteins. Biochemically distinct from epoetin-alpha, darbepoetin-alpha has a greater sialic acid content and biologic half-life than epoetin-alpha, but stimulates erythropoiesis in the same manner. Clinical trials involving patients with cancer-related anemia have shown that darbepoetin-alpha has a threefold longer half-life than epoetin-alpha, which may allow less frequent dosing. The results from an ongoing clinical trial dedicated to testing the clinical benefits of darbepoetin-alpha in treating anemia in lung carcinoma patients will provide a valuable insight into its full potential in this setting.


Anemia is common but is reported to be undertreated in patients with lung carcinoma. The introduction of darbepoetin-alpha into clinical practice may overcome some of the limitations of current treatments and facilitate improvement in the management of cancer-related anemia.

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