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Erythropoietins in oncology – an interactive review of current thinking


Hospira, the world leader in generic injectable pharmaceuticals, sponsored a satellite symposium at the European CanCer Organisation (ECCO) congress on September 20, 2009.

The symposium focused on the current thinking around the use of erythropoietins in oncology. Leading oncologists across Europe were able to discuss the use of erythropoietins in the treatment of chemotherapy-induced anaemia (CIA), amid ongoing concerns over the safety of their use in this setting.

For several years erythropoietins have represented the standard of care in the management of CIA as they increase haemoglobin (Hb) levels, reduce the need for transfusions and improve patient quality of life (QoL).

“It is important that oncologists have the opportunity to debate the role of epoetins in the optimal management of cancer patients, and to fully understand how prescribing may have been influenced amid the safety concerns and changes to guidelines” commented the symposium chair, Dr Kosmidis, Consultant Oncologist and Director of the 2nd oncology clinic, Ygeia Hospital, Athens, Greece.

In this interactive symposium, oncologists were questioned on how they currently use erythropoietins for the treatment of CIA in clinical practice, and how this decision is influenced by current safety guidelines, Hb levels and patient factors.

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Safety, efficacy and quality are all key considerations when choosing an erythropoietin. A recently published clinical trial demonstrated the effectiveness and safety of Retacrit (epoetin zeta) for anaemia in 216 patients with cancer who were undergoing chemotherapy and at risk of transfusion.

“In my clinical experience, epoetin zeta has proved to be efficacious and well tolerated by patients” commented Professor Fruehauf of the Center for Tumor Diagnostics and Therapy, Paracelsus Klinik, Osnabrück, Germany. “Biosimilar epoetin zeta has comparable efficacy and tolerability to other epoetins as demonstrated by clinical trials.”

Retacrit (epoetin zeta) has been approved for the management of CIA in cancer patients5 and may provide a cost-effective alternative to other established erythropoietins in this setting.

“Not only do biosimilars provide a well-tolerated and effective alternative from their originators, but they also have the potential to provide a significant and much needed release of healthcare funds across Europe – it is estimated that over EUR1.6 billion per year could be saved from the use of five biosimilar products” said Dr Kosmidis.


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