By Journal of the National Cancer Institute, [RxPG] Parallel administration of chemotherapy and an anti-anemia drug called darbepoetin alfa every 3 weeks is safe and effective, according to a new study.
Chemotherapy can reduce the bone marrow's ability to produce red blood cells leading to anemia. Anemia is a common side effect among cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. There are drugs available that are often given in conjunction with chemotherapy to counteract anemia. In the United States, one such drug, called darbepoetin, is often given to cancer patients once every week or every other week. In Europe, some anemic cancer patients receive darbepoetin every third week, synchronizing the treatment with chemotherapy administration. However, past studies have not investigated whether dual administration of chemotherapy and darbepoetin every 3 weeks is as safe and effective as the established weekly regimen.
Jean-Luc Canon, M.D., at the Centre Hospitalier Notre Dame et Reine Fabiola in Charleroi, Belgium, and colleagues performed a phase III clinical trial in which 705 anemic cancer patients were randomly assigned to receive darbepoetin treatment every week or every third week at 110 European medical centers.
Compared with patients who received weekly treatment, a fewer number of patients who received treatment every 3 weeks required blood transfusions from week 5 of treatment onwards. Patients taking darbepoetin every third week, synchronized with chemotherapy, had similar hemoglobin levels, and experienced equivalent side effects as patients taking darbepoetin weekly.
The authors conclude that patients with anemia can effectively be treated with darbepoetin every third week with no additional health risks.