Background: The aim of the study was to evaluate the effectiveness, safety, and clinical outcomes of erythropoietin therapy in the treatment of anaemic cancer subjects receiving chemotherapy and to examine hypochromic red blood cell measurement as an indicator of functional iron sufficiency and as a predictor of responsiveness or non-responsiveness to erythropoietin therapy. Methods: Patients who had a non-myeloid malignancy, had Hb ≤ 11.0 g/dL, had a life expectancy of more than 6 months, were 18 years or older, were receiving chemotherapy and would continue to be treated for at least 2 months were given s.c. epoetin alfa three times a week. Results: Haemoglobin levels increased significantly at all time periods compared with baseline and the number of transfusions received decreased significantly at all time periods compared with baseline. Quality of life as measured by Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Anaemia showed significant increases at months 2 and 4 and there were significant improvements in the fatigue subscale at both time points (P < 0.05). Significant improvements at end-point were observed for the physical, emotional and functional well-being, and additional concern subscales (all P < 0.05). Haematocrit and reticulocytes increased significantly at end-point compared with at baseline (haematocrit 33.4 vs 28.3%, P < 0.001; reticulocytes 105.8 vs 78.6 × 109/dL, P = 0.005). The percentage of hypochromic red blood cells did not show predictive value for response to treatment status. Conclusion: Epoetin alfa improved haemoglobin levels and quality of life in anaemic cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.