Does Erythropoietin Improve Cognitive Symptoms in Patients with Cancer? A Systematic Review

Susanne de Wolf-Linder, Jonathan Koffman, Christina Ramsenthaler

Research output: Contribution to journalConference paperpeer-review


Background: Cognitive functional impairment is a
frequently reported symptom in cancer patients after
finishing systemic anti-cancer treatment. Some evidence
supports erythropoietin as a preventive intervention to
maintain normal cognitive function during and after chemotherapy.
Aim: To review the effectiveness of erythropoietin to
improve cognitive symptoms such as memory or attention
problem and related symptoms in patients with cancer.
Methods: A systematic search was conducted in Embase,
Medline, PsycInfo, Cochrane, and CINAHL on 28.3.2013.
All study designs, cancer patients with symptoms of cognitive
impairment (memory or attention problem and related
symptoms) receiving erythropoietin were included.
Results were summarized using narrative data synthesis.
Results: Of 1350 retrieved references, 5 studies were included.
Prevalence of cognitive impairment before receiving
erythropoietin was within the normal range for cognition,
bar one study including elderly patients with cancer. Significant
improvements in cognitive function were seen in
elderly patients receiving high doses of erythropoietin and
cognitive domains, particularly memory, in women with
breast cancer. Participants with solid malignancy reported
improved quality of life.
Conclusion: Erythropoietin may improve cognitive function
in cancer patients receiving erythropoietin but further
evidence is required. This review adds detailed baseline
data to existing evidence, highlighting important factors to
be taken into account when choosing a cognitive function
tool in practice, e.g. age. Population-based studies to redefine the norm of specific cognitive function tools, particularly
for the elderly cancer survivors, are needed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)595-595
Number of pages1
JournalPalliative Medicine
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014


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