The two new studies may buttress that move. In the first study, Reiman and other researchers analyzed data from 52 clinical trials that included more than 12,000 people.
The result: "The use of drugs to encourage red blood cell formation in cancer patients with anemia increases the risk of death and serious adverse events such as blood clots," according to co-researcher Dr. Scott Klarenbach, an assistant professor at the University of Alberta.
Although risk of death was only 15 percent to 16 percent higher among patients who used the drugs than those who did not, the high death rates among cancer patients means this increase could affect a significant number of people, the researchers say.
"These medications should not routinely be used as an alternative to blood transfusions in patients with anemia related to cancer, unless future studies demonstrate safety and clinical benefits," Klarenbach said. "While use of medications [instead of blood transfusion] may be appealing to both patients and practitioners, their use is associated with an increased risk of death."
"At best, these drugs don't seem to improve longevity," Reiman said. "They may have some benefits in improving quality of life."
The report is published in the April 30 online edition of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
In another report, in the May 2 issue of The Lancet, researchers led by Dr. Julia Bohlius, from the University of Bern in Switzerland, looked at the findings from 53 cancer trials that included a total of almost 14,000 patients. More than 1,500 patients died during the study period, and almost 5,000 patients died overall.
The researchers found that ESAs were associated with a 17 percent increase in deaths during the study period. Among patients receiving chemotherapy, ESAs increased the death risk by 10 percent, they repor
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