Venous Thromboembolism in Cancer Patients Undergoing Chemotherapy: Risk Factors and Prevention

Paolo Prandoni, Elena Campello
Seminars in Thrombosis and Hemostasis 2021 January 22
Ambulatory cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy are at a substantial risk for venous thromboembolism (VTE) over the course of therapy and beyond it. Factors accounting for this risk include the activation of extrinsic and intrinsic coagulation pathways, platelet activation, impaired fibrinolysis, use of catheters, infusion of blood products, and thrombogenic potential of several chemotherapeutic drugs. A few stratification models can help identify patients at a higher risk of chemotherapy-associated VTE, who may benefit from preventive strategies. Although low-molecular-weight heparins (LMWHs) effectively reduce the risk of VTE, current guidelines recommend against their routine use. Based on the results of recent randomized controlled clinical trials, the administration of prophylactic doses of the novel direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs) to ambulatory cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy has the potential to offer an effective and safe protection against VTE, obviating the inconveniences of heparins. Except for patients in whom the novel drugs are unsuitable or are contraindicated, in all other patients LMWHs should be replaced by low-dose DOACs.

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