Vital Rheumatoid Arthritis Study
According to a new research conducted in Sweden, patients who have rheumatoid arthritis with severe diseases have 70 times more chances of developing lymphoma, which is a type of cancer, than those who have mild diseases. This is known as cancer arthritis. These findings have some of the best evidences that link the high risk of lymphoma to rheumatoid arthritis patients. This is due to the disease and not by the drugs or medications used for treatments.
In this light, there are even researchers who suggest drugs such as Remicade, Humira, Enbrel, and others for rheumatoid arthritis, can actually lessen the chances of lymphoma development. This is through the reduction of the inflammation in high risk patients.
An article by Arthritis and Rheumatism mentions that ‘conventional medical treatment to suppress and alleviate disease activity is not itself a risk factor for lymphoma.’
Risk of patients
Rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive disease and about two million Americans have the disease. It is characterizedby the joint- lining’s inflammation. When the joint damage may end up causing disability and pain’ cancer arthritis is also a potential.
Those who have rheumatoid arthritis have twice the chance of developing lymphoma, a broad term used for various cancers of the lymphatic system.
This is what Eva Baecklund, MD, PhD, a researcher, concluded with her colleagues from one of Sweden’s national registry. It included almost 75 thousand rheumatoid patients during the research.
They compared 378 of the patients who were diagnosed with lymphoma from 1964 to 1995, to the same number of patients who also had rheumatoid arthritis without lymphoma. They also included a match for time, age, and diagnosis of the disease, as well as the location of the residences.
Patients who had moderate inflammation had 8 more times the chance of developing lymphoma than those who only had mild arthritis. Furthermore, those who had serious rheumatoid arthritis were more likely, to also develop lymphoma- exactly 70 times more. This is why it is very important to detect cancer arthritis early on.
Baecklund and colleagues state, ‘the association between lymphoma risk and very high and/or longstanding disease activity indicates that most patients with RA will never have any clinically relevant increased lymphoma risk.’
The 64,000 dollar-question
The patients, who participated in the study, more than 70 percent of them to be exact, had already been treated. Drugs known to be disease modifiers were used, including methotrexate, which has also been linked to the high risk of the Epstein Barr virus and positive lymphomas. This study was done in France.
During the study, Baecklund and colleagues did not find evidence that linked the drug methotrexate or any disease modifying drug, to a higher risk in developing cancer. This was also the same result for the use of non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs, as well as steroids. Generally, arthritis cancer is not caused by a drug.
Daniel Solomon, MD, a rheumatologist at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, also mentioned that there has not been a link or a particular concern with newer disease modifying drugs- to cause the development of lymphomas. He also stated that Baecklund and colleagues’ research, has further reassured him. Yet, he also said that there are still many questions that have been unanswered.
He also said ‘there is a lot of interest in whether lymphoma risk is drug related or disease related.” It is the $64,000 question and we don’t yet have the answer. It will be a hard issue to disentangle.’