When can we stop anticoagulation in patients with cancer-associated thrombosis?

Agnes Y. Y. Lee


The optimal duration of anticoagulation in patients with cancer-associated venous thromboembolism (VTE) is unknown. Without well-designed studies evaluating the efficacy, safety and cost-effectiveness of continuing anticoagulant therapy beyond the acute treatment period of 3 to 6 months, evidence-based recommendations are lacking. Consensus guidelines generally suggest continuing anticoagulation in patients with active cancer or receiving cancer treatment, with periodic reassessment of the risks and benefits. Unfortunately, with very little published data on the epidemiology of cancer-associated VTE beyond the initial 6 months, it is not possible for clinicians and patients to weigh risks and benefits in a quantitatively informed manner. Further research is needed to provide reliable and contemporary estimates on the risk of recurrent VTE off anticoagulation, risk of bleeding on anticoagulation, case fatality or all-cause mortality, and other important consequences of living with cancer-associated VTE. This chapter provides an overview of the published literature on real-world data on anticoagulant therapy use, the risks and risk factors of recurrent VTE and bleeding, and patient preference and values regarding long-term anticoagulation. It will conclude with a pragmatic, experience-informed approach for tailoring anticoagulant therapy in patients with cancer-associated VTE.

  • Submitted May 30, 2017.
  • Accepted July 27, 2017.