“This study shows a strong association between treatment with TNF (tumor necrosis factor) blocking antibodies and the development of serious infections, such as pneumonia, and cancers,” says Eric Matteson, M.D., Mayo Clinic rheumatologist and a senior study investigator. “It’s a very serious issue. TNF-blocking antibodies are effective for treatment for RA and related conditions, but patients and health care providers must know that there is an increased risk for these complications and be alert for them.”

The study involved a systematic literature search for trials of TNF-blocking antibodies for RA. In addition, the researchers searched for such trials and conducted interviews with the manufacturers of the two licensed TNF-blocking antibodies, infliximab and adalimumab.

The investigators found nine trials that met their inclusion criteria, including 3,493 patients who received TNF-blocking antibodies and 1,512 patients who received placebo. They gathered all data related to serious infections and malignancies in the studies’ participants. Collectively, using various types of analyses, the researchers found that those treated with TNF-blocking antibodies had 3.3 times the risk of developing cancer than those given placebo, and 2.2 times the risk of serious infection. Cancers were much more common in those patients treated with high doses of TNF-blocking antibodies.

Matteson explains that TNF-blocking antibodies might be connected with an increased risk for infection and malignancies because the drugs interfere with immunological mechanisms critical to fighting infection and the body’s normal function in surveying itself for cancerous cells. Matteson strongly encourages patients who are prescribed TNF-blocking antibodies for RA to be especially alert to symptoms of infection, to get their vaccinations, and to undergo cancer screening appropriate for their age and gender.

MEDICA.de; Source: Mayo Clinic