Biologic therapies not linked to cancer

September 11, 2012

Recently developed biologic therapies developed for treating rheumatoid arthritis are not associated with an increased risk of cancer, according to investigators from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Austin, Texas - Recently developed biologic therapies developed for treating rheumatoid arthritis are not associated with an increased risk of cancer, according to investigators from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

The researchers evaluated the risk of developing cancer among nearly 3,000 rheumatoid arthritis patients being treated with biologic response modifiers (BRMs), such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors.

The authors found no statistically significant risk for malignancies among patients taking BRMs when compared to patients using other treatments. Of the patients in the study, 211 developed a malignancy during the trial. The incidence rate for any malignancy during the first year of therapy was very low in the BRM plus methotrexate group (0.77 percent; 95 percent confident interval [CI], 0.65-0.92 percent), the BRM monotherapy group (0.64 percent; 95 percent CI, 0.42-0.95 percent), and the controls (0.66 percent; 95 percent CI, 0.52-0.84 percent). Anakinra plus methotrexate showed lower odds compared with methotrexate alone (Peto odds ratio, 0.11; 95 percent CI, 0.03-0.45 percent), according to the abstract.

“These results are reassuring for patients considering biologic therapies for their disease,” Maria E. Suarez-Almazor, M.D., professor in the department of general internal medicine, said in a news release. “Patients are understandably concerned when treatments are linked to cancer risk. With this knowledge, clinicians can effectively demonstrate that the benefits of BRMs far outweigh the risk.”

BRMs are currently used as a secondary treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, due in part to the conflicting data on cancer correlation.

The study was published online Sept. 5 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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