Lege Artis Medicinae

[Therapeutic strategies in rheumatoid arthritis]

VÁNCSA Andrea, SZEKANECZ Zoltán

NOVEMBER 20, 2013

Lege Artis Medicinae - 2013;23(10-11)

[In this review, we follow the consecutive steps of the internationally accepted therapeutic strategy of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). We summarise in brief the current European recommendations, and provide some advice on methotrexate (MTX) therapy. The initiation, maintenance and, if needed, switch of biological therapy is also discussed. Having reached remission or low disease activity (LDA), tapering or discontinuation of biologics may be considered. Finally, we review the possibilities and the most important biomarkers of personalised treatment.]

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[INTRODUCTION - Survival data for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have improved during the past years. Due to longer life expectancy, more attention has to be paid to prevention and treatment of long-term sequelae, including secondary malignancies. Incidence of malignant lymphoproliferative diseases and bronchial cancer is higher in a number of rheumatic diseases including RA. Some drugs nowadays very rarely used in RA - primarily cyclophosphamide and azathioprine - may further increase cancer risk. According to several large meta-analyses, biological therapy may also increase the risk of lymphomas, however, as these agents are used for the treatment of active, refractory arthritis, benefit may override such risks. PATIENTS AND METHODS - Altogether 516 RA patients managed at our department were assessed for the incidence and type of secondary malignancies. Although the absolute number of RA patients with a tumor was relatively small, we compared our cohort to the Health for All database and calculated standard incidence ratios (SIR). RESULTS - We identified 13 cases of malignancy (11 females and 2 males) in 516 RA patients (2.5%). In two patients, cancer developed before the onset of RA. RA patients with malignancy had an even higher female predominance (5.5 to 1) than usual. Mean age at onset of RA was 51.4 years, while age at the diagnosis of malignancy was 61.8 years. Mean duration of RA at the time of cancer diagnosis was 11.2 years. Five patients died, 4 due to the underlying malignancy. In the fifth patient, the tumor was considered cured but the patient died of amyloidosis. Among the 8 surviving patients, mean survival is 7.3 years until now, while overall survival of all 13 cancer patients is 4.7 years. Regarding types of malignancies, there were 6 cases of bronchial cancer, 2 cases of follicular thyroid cancer, and one cutaneous B cell lymphoma, one breast cancer, one gall bladder cancer, one colorectal cancer, and one pancreatic cancer. In comparison to the Health for All database, the overall SIR of all malignancies in RA was 1.12 (CI 0,91-1,33), varying between 2.2 and 70.7 among different tumor types. Only one cancer patient received cyclophosphamide therapy and some received methotrexate or anti-TNF agents. CONCLUSION - We identified 13 cases of malignancy among our RA patients. In RA, secondary tumors including bronchial cancer and lymphomas are more common than in the general population. Adequate treatment and monitoring of these patients may help us to lower the risk of malignancies secondary to RA]

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