Epoetin alfa improves quality of life in patients with cancer: results of meta-analysis

Michael Jones, Brad Schenkel, Julie Just, Lesley Fallowfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Anemia in patients with cancer causes fatigue, weakness, and impaired concentration, negatively impacting quality of life (QOL). In clinical trials involving patients with cancer who had varied characteristics, it has been shown that epoetin alfa treatment increased hemoglobin levels and improved QOL. A systematic review and metaanalysis of data from those trials was conducted to summarize existing knowledge on the role of epoetin alfa in improving QOL for anemic patients with cancer.

METHODS: The Cochrane Library and other data bases were searched for published and unpublished, randomized/controlled and single-arm studies that included > or = 20 patients with cancer per arm, epoetin alfa treatment, and QOL assessment by Cancer Linear Assessment Score (CLAS), Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy (FACT) scale, Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) scale, and/or Medical Outcomes Study Short-Form 36 (SF-36) scale.

RESULTS: Among 11,459 patients from 23 trials, epoetin alfa and control cohorts were indistinguishable (with regard to demographic, clinical, QOL variables) at baseline. Epoetin alfa improved CLAS (20-25%), FACT-Fatigue (17%), and FACT-Anemia (12%) scores (P = 0.05). ECOG scores worsened for control cohorts (P = 0.05); epoetin alfa cohorts remained unchanged. Four of the SF-36 subscales, Physical Function, Role Physical, Vitality, and Social Function, improved with epoetin alfa (P = 0.05). Results adjusted for confounding factors remained consistent.

CONCLUSIONS: This metaanalysis confirmed that epoetin alfa improves QOL significantly in patients with cancer, emphasizing the need to manage anemia in this population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1720-1732
Number of pages13
Issue number8
Early online date10 Sept 2004
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2004
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

An erratum for this article exists in Cancer, vol. 103, issue 9, p. 1984. DOI: 10.1002/cncr.21062


  • anemia
  • chemotherapy
  • epoetin alfa
  • metaanalysis
  • quality of life


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