Venous thromboembolism in cancer patients.Hosp Pract (1995). 2014 Dec; 42(5):24-33.HP
Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is a common complication in cancer patients. This review summarizes some of the most current knowledge of the epidemiology, risk factors, risk models, prophylaxis, and treatment of VTE in cancer patients.
A literature search was conducted using PubMed; the search terms were venous thromboembolism, anticoagulation, and cancer. The bibliographies of pertinent studies and review articles were reviewed for additional references.
Venous thromboembolism is the second leading cause of death in patients with cancer. Cancer patients with VTE have poorer outcomes compared with noncancer patients with VTE. Many risk factors have been identified for VTE in patients with cancer that are patient-related, cancer-related, or treatment-related. Several biomarkers have been identified as potentially predictive of VTE risk. Risk assessment models such as the Khorana Risk Score stratify cancer patients with low, intermediate, and high risk of developing VTE based on baseline clinical and laboratory variables. Currently, enoxaparin is the preferred anticoagulant for initial VTE treatment in cancer patients. Low molecular weight heparin (LMWH) is recommended for both initial and long-term management of cancer-related VTE. Because the optimal duration of anticoagulation in cancer patients with VTE is unknown, the decision to extend anticoagulation requires weighing the risk of recurrent thrombosis against the risk of major bleeding. Patients with recurrent VTE can be bridged with LMWH, transitioned to full-dose LMWH or treated with LMWH dose escalation. While there is insufficient data to determine whether anticoagulation should be held in the setting of thrombocytopenia, full-dose anticoagulation is typically considered unsafe when platelets are < 50 000/μL. Inferior vena cava filters are currently recommended only for patients with acute VTE and contraindications to anticoagulation. Although management of catheter-associated thrombosis has not been well studied in cancer patients, it is recommended that cancer patients with catheter-associated thrombosis be treated with therapeutic anticoagulation for ≥ 3 months. Venous thromboembolism prophylaxis with UFH, LMWH, or fondaparinux is recommended in all hospitalized nonsurgical cancer patients and cancer patients undergoing major cancer surgery. Primary thromboprophylaxis is only currently recommended in high-risk ambulatory cancer patients such as multiple myeloma patients receiving thalidomide- or lenalidomide- based therapy.
Cancer-associated thrombosis is a common problem. As we begin to better understand the risk factors and biomarkers for cancer-associated VTE, we can further refine and develop risk-assessment models to determine those patients who would most likely benefit from anticoagulation. While LMWH products are generally preferred in cancer-related VTE, more research will continue to evolve our understanding of treatment and thrombopprophylaxis in cancer-associated VTE.