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Relation Between Biologics & Cancer In Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Cancer

Cancer is one of the most discussed diseases all over the world, and reasonably so. The report[1] makes it clear that cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. In America alone, over 1.6 million people are diagnosed with cancer. Out of those diagnosed, over 590,000 people die due to cancer.

Talking about arthritis, it’s also one of the most common medical problems in the United States. The statistic[[2] shows that over 22% Americans are diagnosed with arthritis, and this no. is expected to further increase in the future. There are various forms of arthritis. Among them, rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most common forms of arthritis.

In America alone, the statistic[3] shows that over 1.3 million Americans are diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Is there a connection between these two very common diseases? We will discuss this link in this article.

To deal with the signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, many people take biologics for a long period of time. The TNF-antagonists are drugs that are most commonly used by rheumatoid patients all over the world.

Many people are worried about the increased risk of cancer due to the consumption of these drugs, as they are on these drugs for a long period of time. No one wants to be in an increased risk of cancer. However, none of the people want to experience the terrible symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis as well without doing anything about it.

Does the consumption of biologics increase the risk of cancer? There was a study[4] conducted to find if this connection is real or not. We will explain this study in a simple manner for you. And, the results obtained from the study are all very positive.

What is Biologics Treatment?

Biologics Treatment
Before heading onto the main topic of discussion, let’s discuss a little about the overall biologics treatment and how this treatment works. Biological response modifiers are the most recent category of drugs that are used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

These drugs have been very effective in dealing with the annoying signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Many patients who have used this treatment have found great relief due to the use of biologics treatment.

Some of the popular biologic disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are Actemra, Kineret, Cimzia, Rituxan, and so on. These drugs are developed with the use of biotechnology. These drugs act like natural proteins in the human immune system.

Keep in mind that biologics treatment is not for totally curing rheumatoid arthritis (RA). These drugs are made with the purpose of significantly delaying the progress of rheumatoid arthritis. The doctor may prescribe biologics treatment right after the patient is diagnosed with RA. This treatment can effectively help patients’ combat joint damage.

The time is taken for these drugs to show their effects vary. Some of the drugs act pretty quickly while some of the drugs may take weeks or even months to show their effects.

The biologics treatment alone may not be effective for some patients, though. The combination of old drugs along with biologics treatment may be suggested for some RA patients.

How are Biologics Treatment given?

Most of the biologics are given to the RA patients via injection. Some of these drugs are required to be injected under the skin while some of these drugs need to be injected straight into a vein.

How does Biologics Treatment Work?

When the biologics treatment is received by RA patients, the immune system signals of RA patients are interrupted by the drugs, which are involved in damaged joint tissues. The proteins called tumor necrosis factor (TMF) are targeted by most of the drugs. These drugs are also known as anti-TNF biologics. These drugs have impacts on the human immune system.

Are there any Side Effects of Biologics Treatment?

Besides the claims of the link between the risk of cancer and biologics treatment, there are some other side effects of biologics treatment. For the majority of the people, biologics treatment works perfectly as they have the part in their immune system for reducing inflammation of the joints.

These drugs have comparatively lesser side effects than other older RA drugs. With that said, there are some elements of risk of the drugs that affect the human immune system. Some of the common side effects of these drugs are:

  • Various forms of infections, such as lung infection
  • Nausea
  • Liver damage
  • Inability to form new blood cells
  • Swelling at the injection spot

These are some of the unusual effects of biologics treatment. Some people may even experience unexplained fever due to these drugs. It’s recommended that you consult the doctor if you experience these side effects.

The next section of this article will discuss the major topic of this article.

There is No Connection Between an Increased Risk of Cancer and the Consumption of Biologics

Biologics Risk
The words mentioned in the subtitle above are true, and it’s now proven by the group of researchers. They have debunked the very old theory that the uses of biologics are related to the increased risk of cancer.

According to the Spanish researchers, who sampled more than 4,000 rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients, came with a conclusion from their study that the use of biologics is free from the risk of cancer, which was perpetuated.

The data of more than 4,000 RA patients were carefully analyzed by the group of Spanish researchers, which made them come to this conclusion. The biologics are the drugs that were in use for more than decades. To be precise, they are in use since 1998. From that time onwards, these drugs are provided to more than 600,000 rheumatoid arthritis patients worldwide.

The consumption of these drugs interferes with biologic substances, and there is a chance that this interference may worsen the symptoms of inflammation in RA patients. However, it was still not clear if the blocking Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) is linked with the increased risk of cancer or not in the past.

The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) clearly professed that they were also not clear about the linkage of blocked TNF and increased cancer risk. There are studies[5] that have claimed that the occurrence of rheumatoid arthritis can increase the risk of various forms of cancer, such as lung cancer, blood cancer, and so on.

However, there are no valid reasons to state how the occurrence of rheumatoid arthritis increases the risk of various forms of cancer. The data that is used in the research was extracted from BIOBADASER, which is a drug registry.

BIOBADASER was established in 2001. This drug registry was used for the purpose of long-term follow up with RA patients who were involved in biologics treatment. The drug registry followed up to know about the status of RA patients.

For the purpose of finding out the truth, the RA patients who received TNF-antagonists were compared with RA patients who did not receive TNF-antagonists treatment. The researchers were very careful in the comparison process.

The researchers sorted out RA duration and age of the patients for the purpose of comparison. After a detailed comparison, the researchers came up with the conclusion that the rate of cancer in RA patients who received TNF-antagonists were very close to RA patients who did not receive that drug (0.92%).

After this finding, the researchers concluded that there was no link between biologics and the rate of cancer in RA patients. This also proves that the whole notion of a link between biologics and the increment of the risk of cancer was just the myth.

However, it’s true that the use of TNA-antagonists blocks the tumor necrosis. Despite this fact, it cannot be said that this factor alone can raise the risk of cancer in patients who are on these drugs. According to Dr. Loreto Carmona, who is also the director at the Spanish Foundation of Rheumatology, said that there could be a possibility of reducing the risk of cancer in RA patients if inflammation cascade is blocked.

This whole study was explained at the conference in San Francisco, California.

Read Next: Home Remedies To Help Boost The Effects Of Your Rheumatoid Arthritis Medication

Final Thoughts

The people take biologics for a long period of time. It’s taken for countering the terrible signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. It’s extremely important to address the problem of rheumatoid arthritis, as it could cause a lot of problems. The study[6] has shown that rheumatoid arthritis is one of the major causes of early retirement.

The consumption of biologics is recommended for the people who are dealing with rheumatoid arthritis. Due to the belief of biologics being linked with cancer have risen concerns among rheumatoid arthritis. This fact that biologics are not linked with cancer should have offered a sigh of relief to many rheumatoid arthritis patients who were previously concerned about the risk of cancer.

If you are using biologics, you can continue using them without worrying now. There is a possibility of more studies related to biologics in the near future to debunk many other myths that are spread by the people.

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Contributor : Janice (Joint Health Magazine)

Janice Carson is a freelance journalist who specializes in Joint health issues and provides treatments and solutions to the sufferers. She is having medical writing experience of many years. She is contributing her work to jointhealthmagazine.com.

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