The hypercoagulable state of malignancy: pathogenesis and current debate

Graham Caine, Paul Stonelake, Gregory Lip, ST Kehoe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

306 Citations (Scopus)


A hypercoagulable or prothrombotic state of malignancy occurs due to the ability of tumor cells to activate the coagulation system. It has been estimated that hypercoagulation accounts for a significant percentage of mortality and morbidity in cancer patients. Prothrombotic factors in cancer include the ability of tumor cells to produce and secrete procoagulant/fibrinolytic substances and inflammatory cytokines, and the physical interaction between tumor cell and blood (monocytes, platelets, neutrophils) or vascular cells. Other mechanisms of thrombus promotion in malignancy include nonspecific factors such as the generation of acute phase reactants and necrosis (i.e., inflammation), abnormal protein metabolism (i.e., paraproteinemia), and hemodynamic compromise (i.e., stasis). In addition, anticancer therapy (i.e., surgery/chemotherapy/hormone therapy) may significantly increase the risk of thromboembolic events by similar mechanisms, e.g., procoagulant release, endothelial damage, or stimulation of tissue factor production by host cells. However, not all of the mechanisms for the production of a hypercoagulable state of cancer are entirely understood. In this review, we attempt to describe what is currently accepted about the pathophysiology of the hypercoagulable state of cancer. We also discuss whether or not to screen patients with idiopathic deep venous thrombosis for an underlying malignancy, and whether this would be beneficial to patients. It is hoped that a better understanding of these mechanisms will ultimately lead to the development of more targeted treatment to prevent thromboembolic complications in cancer patients. It is also hoped that antithrombotic strategies may also have a positive effect on the process of tumor growth and dissemination.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)465-73
Number of pages9
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2002


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