In recent years erythropoietic agents have become important tools in the management of anemia in cancer patients, improving hemoglobin (Hb) concentrations, reducing the need for transfusion, and enhancing quality of life. In this prospective and historically controlled study, the effects of epoetin beta on Hb concentrations and red blood cell transfusion needs in children with cancer receiving chemotherapy or radiotherapy have been investigated. Epoetin beta (150 U/kg/day, 3 days a week) was given subcutaneously to 22 children with cancer when Hb concentration <= 10 g/dL. Data from these patients were compared with those from 20 historical control patients. Hb concentrations were studied weekly in the first 9 weeks, then weekly or fortnightly thereafter. Minimum, maximum, and mean Hb concentrations, frequency of red blood cell transfusion, and the number of red cell packs given were noted. Hb concentrations in weeks 6, 8, and 11 were clearly higher in the study group than the controls. The minimum Hb concentration of the study group was significantly higher than than the control group (7.98 +/- 0.73 [6.70-9.68] g/dL and 7.24 +/- 1.40 [5.50-11.20] g/dL, respectively [p = .038]). A total of 8 units of erythrocyte suspension was given to 4 of the 22 patients in the epoetin group (0.36 unit per patient), while 16 of the 20 patients in the control group received 37 units of erythrocyte suspension in total (1.85 units per patient). The red cell transfusion requirement and the units of transfused erythrocytes per patient were clearly lower in the epoetin group (p < .001 for both of the parameters). No drug-related side effects were noted during epoetin therapy. Epoetin beta therapy provides significant increase in Hb concentrations in children with cancer under anticancer treatment, especially after the sixth week of therapy. Administration of epoetin beta prevents profound decreases in Hb concentrations in the course of therapy and effectively reduces the need for red blood cell transfusions. Epoetin beta was found to be safe and effective in the dosage and the scheme it was used in our study.