Is intravenous iron supplementation with erythropoiesis-stimulating agents beneficial in cancer patients with anemia?

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Chemotherapy-induced anemia is often an important problem for cancer patients, and this complication can be treated with erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs). This commentary discusses the findings of a study by Bastit et al., in which 396 patients with nonmyeloid malignancies and chemotherapy-induced anemia were treated with darbepoetin alfa with or without intravenous iron. This phase III trial showed that intravenous iron supplementation increases the hematopoietic response rates to ESAs in cancer patients; however, this study provides no information as to whether all cancer patients with anemia should receive intravenous iron as well as treatment with ESAs. Further data are needed to identify those patients who might benefit from intravenous iron supplementation in addition to ESAs, in order to avoid overtreatment of patients who are unlikely to benefit from the additional iron. As both ESAs and intravenous iron have known short-term and long-term risks, identification of reliable predictors of response that can guide these treatments is necessary before this strategy can be implemented into practice.

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