Red cell distribution width and other red blood cell parameters in patients with cancer: association with risk of venous thromboembolism and mortality

Julia Riedl, Florian Posch, Oliver Königsbrügge, Felix Lötsch, Eva-Maria Reitter, Ernst Eigenbauer, Christine Marosi, Ilse Schwarzinger, Christoph Zielinski, Ingrid Pabinger, Cihan Ay
PloS One 2014, 9 (10): e111440

BACKGROUND: Cancer patients are at high risk of developing venous thromboembolism (VTE). Red cell distribution width (RDW) has been reported to be associated with arterial and venous thrombosis and mortality in several diseases. Here, we analyzed the association between RDW and other red blood cell (RBC) parameters with risk of VTE and mortality in patients with cancer.

METHODS: RBC parameters were measured in 1840 patients with cancers of the brain, breast, lung, stomach, colon, pancreas, prostate, kidney; lymphoma, multiple myeloma and other tumor sites, that were included in the Vienna Cancer and Thrombosis Study (CATS), which is an ongoing prospective, observational cohort study of patients with newly diagnosed or progressive cancer after remission. Primary study outcome is occurrence of symptomatic VTE and secondary outcome is death during a maximum follow-up of 2 years.

RESULTS: During a median follow-up of 706 days, 131 (7.1%) patients developed VTE and 702 (38.2%) died. High RDW (>16%) was not associated with a higher risk of VTE in the total study cohort; in competing risk analysis accounting for death as competing variable the univariable subhazard ratio (SHR) was 1.34 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.80-2.23, p = 0.269). There was also no significant association between other RBC parameters and risk of VTE. High RDW was associated with an increased risk of mortality in the total study population (hazard ratio [HR, 95% CI]: 1.72 [1.39-2.12], p<0.001), and this association prevailed after adjustment for age, sex, hemoglobin, leukocyte and platelet count (HR [95% CI]: 1.34 [1.06-1.70], p = 0.016).

CONCLUSIONS: RDW and other RBC parameters were not independently associated with risk of VTE in patients with cancer and might therefore not be of added value for estimating risk of VTE in patients with cancer. We could confirm that high RDW is an independent predictor of poor overall survival in cancer.

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