Preliminary results from the first 21 patients of a group of 30 with International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) stage II-IV epithelial ovarian carcinoma and anaemia are reported. Patients entered this open-label, comparative-group, out-patient study and were randomized to receive conventional support alone (control patients) or recombinant human erythropoietin (r-HuEPO) in addition to conventional support for 6 months. The aim of the study was to determine the effects of r-HuEPO on the anaemia induced by platinum-based chemotherapy. Patients randomized to r-HuEPO therapy received 300 U/ kg subcutaneously 3 times weekly in addition to conventional chemotherapy. All patients underwent regular haematological monitoring. One patient developed a deep venous thrombosis after 17 doses of r-HuEPO; it was thought that this event may have been related to therapy and the patient was withdrawn from the study. Three other withdrawals occurred after 11, 15 and 40 doses of r-HuEPO because of progressive anaemia, metoclopramide-induced skin rash and change of chemotherapy, respectively. In the 21 patients analysed to date, there was a notable reduction in blood transfusion requirements during the 6 months of chemotherapy and an improvement in mean serial haemoglobin concentrations in patients on r-HuEPO compared with the control group. In conclusion, r-HuEPO has the potential for reducing haematological toxicity in patients with ovarian carcinoma receiving platinum-based chemotherapy. Also, r-HuEPO may allow modest dosage increments in chemotherapy or the addition of abdominopelvic radiotherapy.

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