Blood transfusions to treat anemia in patients with cancer appear to be no better than medications in the risk of life-threatening blood clots, according to an examination by the University of Rochester in New York.
“We’ve known that medications used for the treatment of anemia in cancer cause blood clots and using transfusions was an alternative that some doctors chose to try to avoid this problem,” according to Alok Khorana, MD, in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
The Food and Drug Administration issued restrictions for the use of drugs that boost red-blood-cell production to treat cancer-associated anemia.
But Khorana’s study of 500,000 people hospitalized for cancer at 60 medical centers from 1995 to 2003 found that among those who received a transfusion, 7.2% developed venous thromboembolism and 5.2% developed arterial thromboembolism. That’s comparable to anemic cancer patients treated with medication, Khorana said.
“We need to be cautious in the use of transfusions and search for ways to reduce our patients’ risk of developing blood clots,” Khorana said.