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Trends in Anemia Management in Hemodialysis Patients with Cancer


Butler, Anne M.; Kshirsagar, Abhijit V.; Olshan, Andrew F.; Nielsen, Matthew E.; Wheeler, Stephanie B.; & Brookhart, M. Alan (2015). Trends in Anemia Management in Hemodialysis Patients with Cancer. American Journal of Nephrology, 42(3), 206-215. PMCID: PMC4618160


BACKGROUND: Erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs), intravenous iron, and blood transfusion are used to treat anemia in both end-stage renal disease (ESRD) and cancer. However, anemia treatment patterns have not been described among ESRD patients undergoing hemodialysis with concurrent cancer, especially in the recent era of ESA-related safety concerns.
METHODS: We analyzed Medicare data from a cohort of hemodialysis patients diagnosed with incident cancer. We used multivariable generalized linear models to estimate trends and patterns in ESA use, iron use, transfusion use, epoetin alfa (EPO) dose, iron dose, and resulting hemoglobin levels (2000-2011).
RESULTS: Of 43,760 eligible patients, quarterly ESA use declined slightly from a peak of 94.1 to 90.0%. Quarterly EPO dose increased from 2000 to 2004, then declined; quarterly hemoglobin levels followed a similar pattern. Iron use increased rapidly from 46.9 to 79.3%. Iron dose increased until 2010 and then declined. There was an increase in the quarterly transfusion use (6.3-11.7%) and in the mean number of transfusion days per year (1.4-1.8). Anemia treatment patterns varied by demographic/clinical subgroups, especially among patients receiving chemotherapy, who required higher ESA use, EPO dose, and frequency of transfusions.
CONCLUSIONS: Despite safety concerns about ESAs in both the ESRD and cancer populations, the proportion of hemodialysis patients with cancer who used ESAs between 2000 and 2011 remained extremely high. EPO dose and hemoglobin levels increased and then decreased. Iron use, iron dose, and transfusions increased substantially. Future research examining the risk-benefit profile of different anemia management strategies in the dialysis population with cancer is needed.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

American Journal of Nephrology


Butler, Anne M.
Kshirsagar, Abhijit V.
Olshan, Andrew F.
Nielsen, Matthew E.
Wheeler, Stephanie B.
Brookhart, M. Alan