Management of Cancer-associated Anemia with Erythropoiesis-Stimulating Agents Guideline
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An interview with Dr. Alejandro Lazo-Langner on Management of Cancer-associated Anemia with Erythropoiesis-Stimulating Agents: ASCO/ASH Clinical Practice Guideline Update which provides recommendations on ESAs (and biosimilars) for patients with chemotherapy-associated anemia in the noncurative setting.

The purpose of this podcast is to educate and to inform. This is not a substitute for professional medical care and is not intended for use in the diagnosis or treatment of individual conditions. Guests on this podcast express their own opinions, experience, and conclusions. The mention of any product, service, organization, activity, or therapy should not be construed as an ASCO endorsement. Hello and welcome to the ASCO Guidelines Podcast Series. My name is Shannon McKernin, and today I'm interviewing Dr. Alejandro Lazo-Langner from Western University in London, Ontario, senior author on Management of Cancer-Associated Anemia with Erythropoeiesis-stimulating Agents, ASCO/ASH Clinical Practice Guidelines Update. Thank you for being here today, Dr. Lazo-Langner. Thank you very much for the invitation to present the new guidelines. So this guideline has been updated now three times since its original publication in 2002. So how has this guideline changed over time? Since initial publication in 2002, this guideline has undergone a number of different changes. If you look at the initial series of recommendations in the 2002 guideline, it was really limited and it was fairly upfront recommending the use of erythropoiesis-stimulating agents in this setting. But during the last two updates in 2007 and 2010, that has changed significantly. And in the current guidelines, we have added some additional evidence that has been published in the last eight years. And now, in general, what we can tell is that the use of erythropoiesis-stimulating agents is now more restrictive than in the original guideline and is basically recommended for only one or two situations. There has been some other updates in the last iteration of the guideline that I can certainly discuss in more detail later. But basically, in general, the guideline has now, in the last iterations, restricted the recommendations that were much more general during the first edition of this guideline, almost all of them based on available and emerging evidence regarding the onset of their side effects with these medications. And can you give us a general overview of what this new guideline update covers, especially that new evidence that's emerged? Yeah. So the new guideline has changed a few items. And indeed, we-- the committee did a little bit of an overhaul in the recommendations that are not in the same order as they were in the previous editions. We can say that there is a couple of important updates. The first one would be addressing the use of biosimilars, which were not available in the previous guidelines. And we have addressed that in the current edition. The biosimilars have not been extensively studied in cancer, but they have. And so far, the committee considered that they were equivalent in terms of effectiveness and safety to the originator agents, both epoetin and erythropoietin. And the second most important update on the guideline is the recommendation of the concurrent use of iron supplementation in patients who are receiving erythropoietin-stimulating agents. The previous versions of the guideline just recommended the use of iron supplementation in patients with documented iron deficiency. However, in the last eight years, there's been a number of studies that have suggested that the concurrent use of iron supplementation, irrespective of the baseline iron status, does increase the efficacy of the agents. Third point is that, although this is not new, there's been more emerging evidence supporting the notion that all of the erythropoietin-stimluating agents increase the risk of thromboembolism. And this has been very consistent across all studies, and in particular derive from Julia Bohlius's systematic review and meta-analysis that was published a few years ago. And she's the lead author on these guidelines now. This has been confirmed, and I think that at this point this is probably the main limiting factor on the use of these medications. And the final minor update was that regarding the use of erythropoietin in patients with myelodysplastic syndrome. This guideline now suggests baseline serum erythropoietin level cut-off that might actually increase the chances of the erythropoietin-stimluating agents of being effective. This has been updated from the previous guidelines based on recent research. And what are the key takeaways of this guideline update? Well, the key takeaways is that if a clinician is deciding to use erythropoietin-stimluating agents, in agreement with the previous guidelines, the first thing that you have to consider is that you should not use these agents in patients that are receiving chemotherapy with a curative intent. And it should be reserved to patients in whom the chemotherapy is being given with a palliative intent. It should be only used to decrease the use of red blood cell transfusions. And if a clinician is to make a decision as to whether to use these agents or not, they should consider concurrent use of iron supplementation. But basically, the other consideration that needs to be made is that because of the confirmed increase in the risk of thromboembolic complications, in the last eight years, there's been a myriad of new treatments that may potential increase the risk of these complications, specifically and most importantly in patients with myeloma in whom the use of immunomodulators such as lenalidomide or thalidomide does increase the risk of thromboembolic events per se. And in those patients, if they were to be considered for treatment with erythropoietin-stimluating agents, that should be done in a very, very careful fashion. The risk of thrombosis is significantly high in these patients, and the concurrent use of erythropoietin-stimluating agents is probably not a very good idea. So if one were to summarize the guidelines, I would say that, one, consider very carefully whether your patient actually needs these agents, and if they do need the agents, whether they should be receiving them, specifically if they are only being given chemotherapy with palliative intent with a short time life expectancy. Some patients would be considered to be in palliative. However, in conditions such as myeloma, for instance, although they are not curable, the patients may go on living for many years. So that's probably not a very good idea to use these agents if they increase the risk of complications. And if one is going to be considering these, they should consider also the concurrent use of iron to improve the efficacy of these agents. And finally, how will these guideline recommendations affect patients? Well, the guideline recommendations won't have a particularly high impact on patients. The most important thing is that, if patients require ongoing transfusional support due to the palliative chemotherapy or the nature of the disease they have, the use of erythropoietin-stimluating agents might decrease the need for these transfusions at the cost of increasing the risk of complications. The new updated guidelines are probably going to result in-- if they are considered when a clinician is using these agents, they are probably going to result in lower complications for patients due to the more restrictive nature of the recommendations. And in general, the only other consideration would be that under special circumstances related to, for instance, access to transfusional support or other personal considerations from certain patients and groups, these guidelines might actually help to overcome those barriers for transfusional support. But those were the two major impact points that would be considered based on this updated guideline. Great. Thank you for your work on this important guideline and thank you for your time today, Dr. Lazo-Langner. Thank you for the invitation. And thank you to all of our listeners for tuning into the ASCO Guidelines Podcast Series. To read the full guideline, go to And if you've enjoyed what you've heard today, please rate and review the podcast and refer the show to a colleague. 

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