The composite of recurrent VTE and major bleeding was nonsignificantly lower for DOACs than for LMWHs.
DOACs should be used with caution in patients at high risk for bleeding.
Direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs) are an emerging treatment option for patients with cancer and acute venous thromboembolism (VTE), but studies have reported inconsistent results. This systematic review and meta-analysis compared the efficacy and safety of DOACs and low-molecular-weight heparins (LMWHs) in these patients. MEDLINE, Embase, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and conference proceedings were searched to identify relevant randomized controlled trials. Additional data were obtained from the original authors to homogenize definitions for all study outcomes. The primary efficacy and safety outcomes were recurrent VTE and major bleeding, respectively. Other outcomes included the composite of recurrent VTE and major bleeding, clinically relevant nonmajor bleeding (CRNMB), and all-cause mortality. Summary relative risks (RRs) were calculated in a random effects meta-analysis. In the primary analysis comprising 2607 patients, the risk of recurrent VTE was nonsignificantly lower with DOACs than with LMWHs (RR, 0.68; 95% CI, 0.39-1.17). Conversely, the risks of major bleeding (RR, 1.36; 95% CI, 0.55-3.35) and CRNMB (RR, 1.63; 95% CI, 0.73-3.64) were nonsignificantly higher. The risk of the composite of recurrent VTE or major bleeding was nonsignificantly lower with DOACs than with LMWHs (RR, 0.86; 95% CI, 0.60-1.23). Mortality was comparable in both groups (RR, 0.96; 95% CI, 0.68-1.36). Findings were consistent during the on-treatment period and in those with incidental VTE. In conclusion, DOACs are an effective treatment option for patients with cancer and acute VTE, although caution is needed in patients at high risk of bleeding.