Blood clots occurred in just 1.2 percent of those taking semuloparin compared to 3.4 percent of those on the placebo, according to the study.
The incidence of any type of excessive bleeding was 2.8 percent for the semuloparin group and 2.0 percent in those on placebo. Major bleeding occurred in 1.2 percent of those on semuloparin and 1.1 percent of those on placebo.
Results of the study are published in the Feb. 16 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
In addition to preventing clots, heparin medications may also help fight cancer tumors, according to the authors of an accompanying editorial in the same issue of the journal.
"This study by itself did not show any effect on mortality, but when we included it in a meta-analysis, we found that there is a likely survival benefit," said one of the editorial's authors, Dr. Elie Akl, an associate professor of medicine at the State University of New York at Buffalo.
The meta-analysis done by Akl and his co-author reviewed 11 studies including more than 6,000 people taking heparin medications during chemotherapy. They concluded that for every 1,000 people being treated with chemotherapy for cancer, there would be 30 fewer deaths if people were also treated with heparin during their chemotherapy. They also estimated that there would be 20 fewer blood clots. And, they estimated that there would be one more major bleeding episode and five more minor bleeding episodes if everyone on chemotherapy were to receive heparin treatment.
"Patients with cancer, who have a low risk of bleeding and who have no problem with injecting themselves with heparin, are likely to benefit in terms of survival from heparin treatment," he said.
What isn't yet clear, Akl said, is if heparin would provide more or less benefit depending on the type of cancer someone has, and how far advanced the cancer is. He said that th
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