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Comparative assessment of low-molecular-weight heparins in cancer from the perspective of patient outcomes and survival

Authors Falanga A, Vignoli A, Diani E, Marchetti M

Published 23 November 2011 Volume 2011:2 Pages 175—188


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Anna Falanga, Alfonso Vignoli, Erika Diani, Marina Marchetti
Division of Immunohematology and Transfusion Medicine, Ospedali Riuniti, Bergamo, Italy

Abstract: Patients with cancer are at high risk of developing venous thromboembolism (VTE), including deep venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. Compared to non-cancer patients, VTE in cancer is more frequently associated with clinical consequences, including recurrent VTE, bleeding, and an increase in the risk of death. Low-molecular-weight heparins (LMWHs) are commonly recommended for the prevention and treatment of VTE in cancer patients because of their favorable risk-to-benefit profile. Indeed, compared with vitamin K antagonists, LMWHs are characterized by a reduced need for coagulation monitoring, few major bleeding episodes, and once-daily dosing, which make these drugs more suitable in the cancer setting. Guidelines have been published recently with the aim to improve the clinical outcomes in cancer patients at risk of VTE and its complications. Coagulation activation in cancer may have a role not only in thrombosis but also in tumor growth and dissemination. Hence, inhibition of fibrin formation has been considered a possible tool against the progression of malignant disease. Clinical studies show that anticoagulant drugs may have a beneficial effect on survival in cancer patients, with a major role for LMWHs. Recently a number of prospective randomized clinical trials to test LMWHs to improve cancer survival as a primary endpoint in cancer patients have been conducted. Although the results are controversial, the interest in this research area remains high.

Keywords: venous thromboembolism, VTE, LMWH

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