According to Dr. Ann E. Clarke, director of the MUHC lupus clinic and study co-lead, the fear of developing cancer among Lupus patients has been so great that some were reluctant to take their medication and others stopped altogether.
The international study involved 75 lupus patients with lymphoma from different centres around the world and nearly 5,000 cancer-free lupus patients as a control. Researchers studied most of the drugs commonly used to treat SLE including cyclophosphamide, a drug reserved for severe lupus cases and other chronic inflammatory rheumatic diseases.
The results showed that the risk for lymphoma in lupus patients exposed to cyclophosphamide was less than 0.1% per year. In addition, no clear association was observed between lupus disease activity and lymphoma risk.
“People have been wondering for a long time whether the medications were to blame and the results are reassuring, suggesting that most lymphoma cases in SLE are not triggered by drug exposures,” says Dr. Bernatsky.
“This is very good news that cancer risk associated with lupus medication is relatively low," said Louise Bergeron, who has been living with lupus for 12 years. "It reassures me, especially if I need to take more effective immunosuppressive treatments in the coming years.”
Future research will focus on the genetic profiles of lupus patients and what impact that can have on the interaction between medication exposure and lymphoma risk in lupus.
Click here to access the study online: http://ard.bmj.com/content/early/2013/01/08/annrheumdis-2012-202099.abstract
This work was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
- Research Institute of the MUHC: muhc.ca/research
- McGill University Health Centre (MUHC): muhc.ca
- McGill University: mcgill.ca