In a nutshell
This study investigated the risk of malignancy in patients treated with biological disease-modifying drugs for rheumatoid arthritis (bDMARDs).
They found that patients receiving bDMARDs to treat early rheumatoid arthritis have a reduced risk of malignancy overall.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic condition that causes painful inflammation and degeneration of the joints. To treat RA patients are prescribed medications that suppress the immune system. As a result, patients treated for RA can be at an increased risk of cancer. This is because suppressing the immune system can prevent the body recognizing and responding to abnormal tissue growth, such as tumors.
There are a number of different types of disease-modifying anti-rheumatic agents (DMARDs) used to treat RA. Biological DMARDs (bDMARDs) are medications derived from natural compounds that target inflammatory factors such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF). It is unknown if bDMARDs are associated with increased malignancy (cancer) risk.
Methods & findings
This study investigated if there is an increased risk of malignancy in patients taking bDMARDs for rheumatoid arthritis.
This study included 12,397 patients with early RA. This retrospective study analyzed patient data post-treatment. Patients were followed until malignancy occurred or for a maximum period of 4 years. Patients with a history of malignancy were not included in the analysis.
The risk of malignancy in bDMARD users was 82 per 10,000 person years compared to 180 per 10,000 person years in non-bDMARD users (person year is a measure of incidence in a population within a certain time frame). bDMARD users had a 58% reduced risk of malignancy overall. Additional analysis by cancer type found that there was no reduction in the risk of blood malignancy (leukemia or lymphoma).
The bottom line
This study concluded that patients receiving bDMARDs to treat early rheumatoid arthritis have a reduced risk of malignancy overall.
The fine print
This study examined a South Korean population that was predominantly female (77%). The results may not be applicable to other ethnicities or the wider male population. Patients were only observed for a relatively short period, long-term follow-up studies are needed to monitor cancer risk. The retrospective nature of the study means not all information could be included.
If you have any concerns regarding treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and cancer risk please discuss with your doctor.
Published By :
Arthritis Research & Therapy
Dec 15, 2017
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