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BACKGROUND: The role and dose of anticoagulants in thromboprophylaxis for patients with cancer receiving chemotherapy through central venous catheters (CVCs) is controversial. We therefore assessed whether warfarin reduces catheter-related thrombosis compared with no warfarin and whether the dose of warfarin determines the thromboprophylactic effect. METHODS: In 68 clinical centres in the UK, we randomly assigned 1590 patients aged at least 16 years with cancer who were receiving chemotherapy through CVCs to no warfarin, fixed-dose warfarin 1 mg per day, or dose-adjusted warfarin per day to maintain an international normalised ratio between 1.5 and 2.0. Clinicians who were certain of the benefit of warfarin randomly assigned patients to fixed-dose or dose-adjusted warfarin groups. The primary outcome was the rate of radiologically proven, symptomatic catheter-related thrombosis. Analysis was by intention to treat. This trial is registered as an International Standard Randomised Controlled Trial, number ISRCTN 50312145. FINDINGS: Compared with no warfarin (n=404), warfarin (n=408; 324 [79%] on fixed-dose and 84 [21%] on dose-adjusted) did not reduce the rate of catheter-related thromboses (24 [6%] vs 24 [6%]; relative risk 0.99, 95% CI 0.57-1.72, p=0.98). However, compared with fixed-dose warfarin (n=471), dose-adjusted warfarin (n=473) was superior in the prevention of catheter-related thromboses (13 [3%] vs 34 [7%]; 0.38, 0.20-0.71, p=0.002). Major bleeding events were rare; an excess was noted with warfarin compared with no warfarin (7 vs 1, p=0.07) and with dose-adjusted warfarin compared with fixed-dose warfarin (16 vs 7, p=0.09). A combined endpoint of thromboses and major bleeding showed no difference between comparisons. We did not note a survival benefit in either comparison. INTERPRETATION: The findings show that prophylactic warfarin compared with no warfarin is not associated with a reduction in symptomatic catheter-related or other thromboses in patients with cancer and therefore we should consider newer treatments. FUNDING: Medical Research Council and Cancer Research UK.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





567 - 574


Aged, Anticoagulants, Antineoplastic Agents, Catheterization, Central Venous, Female, Hemorrhage, Humans, International Normalized Ratio, Male, Meta-Analysis as Topic, Middle Aged, Neoplasms, Venous Thrombosis, Warfarin