Should I consider a direct oral anticoagulant (DOAC) for my patient with pancreatic cancer and pulmonary embolism?

Classically, anticoagulant (AC) of choice in active malignancy with venous thromboembolism (VTE) has been low-molecular weight heparin (LMWH) (eg, enoxaparin) because of trials showing its superiority over warfarin. But now the pendulum is swinging toward DOACs as an alternative mode of treatment.

A 2018 trial found that oral edoxaban (an Xa inhibitor) was noninferior to subcutaneous dalteparin (a LMWH) with the composite outcome of recurrent VTE or major bleeding.1 Overall, recurrent VTE was significantly lower in edoxaban (7.9% vs 11.3%) but had higher major bleeding (6.9% vs 4.05). Of note, edoxaban was initiated after 5 days of treatment with LMWH.

More recently, the 2020 Caravaggio trial, showed non-inferiority of apixaban (at a dose of 10 mg twice daily for the first 7 days, followed by 5 mg twice daily) to dalteparin with recurrent VTE of 5.6% in the apixaban group vs 7.9% in the dalteparin.2 There was no significant difference in rates of major bleeding (3.8% vs 4%). A prior small study, the ADAM-VTE trial, compared apixaban to dalteparin in patients with malignancy and VTE.3 Apixaban had significantly lower VTE recurrence rates (0.7% to 6.3%) and non-significant lower major bleeding (0% vs 1.4%, p=0.138) consistent with the newer and larger trial. Of note, this trial excluded patients with brain tumor and had few patients with upper GI or hematologic malignancy.  

In addition, a pilot study, the SELECT-D trial, compared rivaroxaban to dalteparin.4 Rivaroxaban had significantly lower VTE recurrence (4% vs 11%), without a significant increase in major bleeding (6% vs 4%), but had an increased number of clinically relevant non-major bleeds (13% vs 4%), particularly in cancers of the upper GI tract.

Although decision regarding use of DOACs in patients with malignancy should be made on case-by-case basis, they are increasingly considered for treatment of VTE in this patient population with the strongest evidence supporting apixaban or the initial use of LMWH for 5 days followed by edoxaban.  

Contributed by Sean Mendez MD, Mass General Hospital, Boston, MA.

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References:  

  1. Raskob GE, van Es N, Verhamme P, Carrier M, Di Nisio M, Garcia D, Grosso MA, Kakkar AK, Kovacs MJ, Mercuri MF, Meyer G, Segers A, Shi M, Wang TF, Yeo E, Zhang G, Zwicker JI, Weitz JI, Büller HR. Edoxaban for the Treatment of Cancer-Associated Venous Thromboembolism. N Engl J Med. 2018 Feb 15;378(7):615-624. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1711948. Epub 2017 Dec 12. PubMed PMID: 29231094.
  2. McBane Ii R, Loprinzi CL, Ashrani A, Perez-Botero J, Leon Ferre RA, Henkin S, Lenz CJ, Le-Rademacher JG, Wysokinski WE. Apixaban and dalteparin in active malignancy associated venous thromboembolism. The ADAM VTE Trial. Thromb Haemost. 2017 Oct 5;117(10):1952-1961. doi: 10.1160/TH17-03-0193. Epub 2017 Aug 24. PubMed PMID: 28837207.
  3. Agnelli G, Becattini C, Meyer G, Muñoz A, Huisman MV, Connors JM, Cohen A, Bauersachs R, Brenner B, Torbicki A, Sueiro MR, Lambert C, Gussoni G, Campanini M, Fontanella A, Vescovo G, Verso M. Apixaban for the Treatment of Venous Thromboembolism Associated with Cancer. N Engl J Med. 2020 Mar 29;. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1915103. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 32223112.
  4. Young AM, Marshall A, Thirlwall J, Chapman O, Lokare A, Hill C, Hale D, Dunn JA, Lyman GH, Hutchinson C, MacCallum P, Kakkar A, Hobbs FDR, Petrou S, Dale J, Poole CJ, Maraveyas A, Levine M. Comparison of an Oral Factor Xa Inhibitor With Low Molecular Weight Heparin in Patients With Cancer With Venous Thromboembolism: Results of a Randomized Trial (SELECT-D). J Clin Oncol. 2018 Jul 10;36(20):2017-2023. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2018.78.8034. Epub 2018 May 10. PubMed PMID: 29746227.

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Catalyst, Harvard University, its affiliate academic healthcare centers, or its contributors. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

Should I consider a direct oral anticoagulant (DOAC) for my patient with pancreatic cancer and pulmonary embolism?

Why are patients with acute exacerbation of COPD at higher risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE)?

Patients admitted to the hospital for acute exacerbation of COPD are generally regarded as being at high risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE) (prevalence 5%-29%), possibly due to the frequent coexistence of other risk factors, such as immobility, history of smoking, and venous stasis.1 The exact mechanism(s) behind this association remains poorly understood, however.

Among patients with moderate-very severe COPD (GOLD criteria stage II-IV),  high BMI, low exercise tolerance, history of pneumothorax, congestive heart failure, and peripheral vascular disease have also been associated with VTE.1

Systemic inflammation has also been implicated in increasing the risk of VTE in patients with COPD. Although the pathophysiology of COPD is largely defined by the local inflammatory response to airway injury, evidence suggests that there is also a systemic inflammatory response in COPD.2,3 This systemic inflammation could in turn contribute to the increased risk of vascular disease, including VTE, coronary artery disease, and cerebrovascular disease.4

Bonus pearl: Did you know that VTE may be 3x more prevalent among patients with COPD exacerbation without known cause (vs those with identifiable cause) and is associated with a 1-year mortality of 61.9%! 5

References:

  1. Kim V, Goel N, Gangar J, et al. Risk factors for venous thromboembolism in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Chronic Obstr Pulm Dis 2014;1: 239-249. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25844397
  2. Lankeit M, Held M. Incidence of venous thromboembolism in COPD: linking inflammation and thrombosis? Eur Respir J 2016;47(2):369-73. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26828045
  3. Sinden NJ1, Stockley RA. Systemic inflammation and comorbidity in COPD: a result of ‘overspill’ of inflammatory mediators from the lungs? Review of the evidence. Thorax 2010;65:930-6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20627907
  4. King PT. Inflammation in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and its role in cardiovascular disease and lung cancer. Clinical and Translational Medicine 2015;4:26. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4518022/
  5. Gunen H, Gulbas G, In E, et al. Venous thromboemboli and exacerbations of COPD. Eur Respir J 2010;36:1243-8.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19926740 

Contributed by Camilo Campo, Medical Student, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.

Why are patients with acute exacerbation of COPD at higher risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE)?

Should I routinely consider the possibility of pulmonary embolism (PE) in my patients hospitalized for syncope?

Syncope is a well-known initial manifestation of pulmonary embolism (PE)1.  However, given the varied causes of syncope, determining the prevalence of PE among patients hospitalized for syncope is important.   

A multicenter prospective study2 enrolled 560 patients not already on anticoagulation who were hospitalized for a first episode syncope.  Of patients who had either a high pretest probability for PE, positive D-dimer assay or both, PE was diagnosed in 17%, or nearly 1 of 6 of enrolled patients, based on CT or ventilation/perfusion scan. PE was found more frequently among patients with syncope of undetermined cause than those with an alternative explanation (25.4% vs 12.7%). 

Another multicenter prospective study (2019), however, found a much lower prevalence of PE (0.6%) among patients evaluated in the ED for syncope, including those who were not hospitalized.3 A related commentary on the article reported a prevalence of 4.1% in the total study population, assuming a “worst-case scenario calculation.” 4 

Given these divergent results, perhaps the best advice is to consider PE as cause of syncope in the proper context and minimize overtesting when suspicion remains low.

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References 

  1. Thames MD, Alpert JS, Dalen JE. Syncope in patients with pulmonary embolism. JAMA 1977;238:2509-2511. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/578884
  2. Prandoni P, Lensing AWA, Prins MH, et al. Prevalence of pulmonary embolism among patients hospitalized for syncope. N Engl J Med 2016;375:1524-31. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1602172
  3. Thiruganasambandamoorthy V, Sivilotti MLA, Rowe BH, et al. Prevalence of pulmonary embolism among emergency department patients with syncope: a multicenter prospective cohort study [published online January 25, 2019]. Ann Emerg Med. doi:10.106/j.annemergmed.2018. https://www.annemergmed.com/article/S0196-0644(18)31535-X/fulltext
  4. Anonymous. Pulmonary embolism uncommon in syncope hospitalizations. Pulmonology Advisor. February 6, 2019.  https://www.pulmonologyadvisor.com/pulmonary-embolism-uncommon-in-syncope-hospitalizations/printarticle/832069/

 

Contributed in part by Rebecca Berger  MD, Department of Medicine, Mass General Hospital, Boston, MA

 

Should I routinely consider the possibility of pulmonary embolism (PE) in my patients hospitalized for syncope?

My patient with significant dyspnea appears to have an acute exacerbation of his chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (AE-COPD). How often do AE-COPD and pulmonary embolism (PE) coexist?

Simultaneous presence of PE in patients with AE-COPD is not rare, particularly in those with unexplained AE-COPD.

A recent systematic review and meta-analysis reported a pooled PE prevalence of 16.1% (95% C.I. 8.3%-25.8%) in unexplained AE-COPD, with 68% of emboli found in the main pulmonary arteries, lobar arteries or inter-lobar arteries (i.e. not subsegmental); the pooled prevalence of deep venous thrombosis (DVT) was 10.5% (95% C.I. 4.3%-19.0%) 1. Pleuritic chest pain and signs of cardiac failure were associated with AE-COPD, while symptoms suggestive of a respiratory tract infection argued against PE.

It remains unclear, however, if the threshold for evaluation of venous thromboembolism (VTE) should necessarily differ between patients with explained vs unexplained AE-COPD.

In one small study, the prevalence of VTE in “unexplained” AE-COPD was significantly higher (25%) than “explained” AE-COPD (including cases with  tracheobronchitis, pneumonia, cardiac disorders, exposure to irritant inhalants, and lack of compliance with treatment), but the VTE prevalence for the latter group was still 8.4%2.  Serum D-dimer level and Wells criteria may help exclude VTE in this patient population.

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References

  1. Aleva FE, Voets LWLM, Simons SO, et al. Prevalence and localization of pulmonary embolism in unexplained acute exacerbations of COPD: A systematic review and meta-analysis. CHEST (2016), doi: 10.1016/j.chest.2016.07.034.
  2. Gunen H, Gulbas G, In E, Yetkin O, Hacievliyagil SS. Venous thromboemboli and exacerbations of COPD. Eur Respir J 2010;35:1243-1248.

 

Contributed by Jeff Greenwald, MD, Core Educator Faculty, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital

My patient with significant dyspnea appears to have an acute exacerbation of his chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (AE-COPD). How often do AE-COPD and pulmonary embolism (PE) coexist?

Can syncope be related to acute pulmonary embolism in the absence of hemodynamic instability or right ventricular failure?

Although we often think of syncope caused by acute pulmonary embolism (APE) in the setting of submassive or massive APE and right ventricular failure or shock (1,2), less massive APE may potentially cause syncope as well by triggering a vaso-vagal reflex (3).

For sure, a significant association between submassive or massive APE and syncope has been reported (1,2).  More specifically, patients with syncope and APE may be more likely to have systolic blood pressure <90 mmHg, right ventricular dilation and right ventricular hypokinesis (1). Another study reported a higher rate of central embolism (83% vs 43%), right ventricular dysfunction (91% vs 68%) and troponin positivity (80% vs 39%), but not 30 day mortality (2).

In contrast, 1 study found that patients with syncope as a presenting symptom of APE did not show a more serious clinical picture (e.g. shock) than those without syncope (3), while another found EKG signs of acute right ventricle overload in only 25% of patients with syncope (4).  

So while massive APEs may be associated with syncope, they don’t seem to be a prerequisite for this condition.

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References

1.  Omar HR, Mirsaeidi M, Weinstock MB, et al. Syncope on presentation is a surrogate for submassive and massive acute pulmonary embolism. Am J Emerg Med 2018;36:297-300. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29146419

2. Altinsoy B, Erboy F, Tanriverdi H, et al. Syncope as a presentation of acute pulmonary embolism. Ther Clin Risk Manag 2016;12:1023-28. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4930221/

3. Castelli R, Tarsia P, Tantardini G et al. Syncope in patients with pulmonary embolism: comparison between patients with syncope as the presenting symptom of pulmonary embolism and patients with pulmonary embolism without syncope. Vascular Medicine 2003;8:257-261. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1191/1358863x03vm510oa

4. Miniati M, Cenci, Monti S, et al. Clinical presentation of acute pulmonary embolism: survey of 800 cases. PloS One 2012;7:e30891.

 

 

Can syncope be related to acute pulmonary embolism in the absence of hemodynamic instability or right ventricular failure?