Preventing Blood Clots in Cancer Patients

Anticoagulants used preventively could save lives

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Cancer patients can sometimes develop life-threatening blood clots at some point during treatment. One expert says there's a proactive way to prevent blood clots from forming and save lives in the process.

Using blood thinners (anticoagulants) preventively could prevent blood clots from forming in cancer patients receiving outpatient treatment. Those are the conclusions of a recent study presented at the 53rd annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH).

"Ask your doctor if blood thinners are appropriate for you."

Study leader, Margaret Ragni, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine in the division of hematology/oncology at  University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, explains that while blood clots are a major cause of death in cancer patients, anticoagulants aren't usually prescribed until patients have surgery, are hospitalized or develop a clot.

The study was designed to see if anticoagulant use could prevent the clots from forming, and improve the health outcomes and quality of life for cancer patients.

Dr. Ragni's team produced a model that provides preliminary analyses to determine if clinical trials would be productive. The model used data from previously published studies to evaluate the effectiveness and cost of using blood thinners preventively in patients who had no history of blood clots.

Researchers explored the data as patients moved through various states, including bleeding, development of blood clots, cancer recurrence and death.

Dr. Ragni says given the high number of cancer patients who suffer blood clots, it seems logical to explore preventive use of anticoagulants.

"When you take into consideration all of the benefits, balanced with the cost of the drug, this approach could be practice-changing,” Dr. Ragni said.

She hopes this research will lead to future clinical trials.

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Review Date: 
December 16, 2011
Last Updated:
December 18, 2011