A lot has happened in oncology since the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) first issued its guidelines on platelet transfusion for patients with cancer in 2001, noted the authors of the updated recommendations.

“The expense of platelet transfusions, coupled with potential adverse effects such as febrile and allergic reactions, transfusion-related acute lung injury, and bacterial contamination point to the importance of evidence-based transfusion practice,” wrote Charles A Schiffer, MD, of Wayne State Michigan, Detroit, and his colleagues in the updated guidelines .

Many of the original recommendations remain unchanged, but there are updated evidence-based recommendations in five key areas.

For example, regarding platelet transfusion thresholds in the setting of hematologic stem-cell transplantation in adults, the guidelines incorporate evidence from randomized clinical trials showing that among adults who have received autologous hematologic stem-cell transplantation, bleeding rates with decreased use of platelets are similar whether patients are treated prophylactically or at the first sign of bleeding, “and this approach may be used in experienced centers,” wrote Dr. Schiffer and his colleagues (J Clin Oncol. 2017 Nov 28. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2017.76.1734).

The authors caution, however, that the recommendation applies to adults only.

Other updated recommendations include:

• Rhesus D alloimmunization from platelet transfusions to RhD-negative patients can be prevented through either exclusive use of platelet products from RhD-negative donors or immunoprophylaxis. The guidelines note that there is a low rate of RhD alloimmunization in cancer patients in general, but state that prevention may be used in girls and in women of child-bearing age who are being treated with curative intent.

• For patients with acute myeloid leukemia, receiving induction chemotherapy, the use of leukoreduced platelet and red blood cell products can reduce the likelihood that patients will develop alloantibody-mediated refractory reactions to plate transfusions.

“It is therefore appropriate to provide leukoreduced blood products to patients with [acute myeloid leukemia] from the time of diagnosis to ameliorate this important clinical problem,” the investigators wrote.

They noted that leukoreduction to prevent alloimmunization might benefit patients with other leukemia histologies and with other types of cancer who are undergoing chemotherapy, but added that there is a lack of evidence to support this as a recommendation outside of acute myeloid leukemia.

To reduce the risk of bleeding due to thrombocytopenia in patients with solid tumors who are undergoing chemotherapy, the panelists recommend transfusing patients when their platelet levels fall below 10 x 109 per liter. It is appropriate to give platelet transfusions to patients with higher levels when there is active localized bleeding, they stated.

The guideline authors also recommend that when refractoriness to platelet infusions is suspected, clinicians should perform platelet counts from 10 to 60 minutes after the transfusion is completed. A refractoriness determination should be made only after two or more infusions of ABO-compatible units that have been stored for less than 72 hours result in poor increments, they advised.

The guideline development process is supported by ASCO. Dr. Schiffer and six other guideline authors disclosed consulting or advisory roles, research funding, honoraria and/or fees with various pharmaceutical companies or other corporate entities.