Risk of Cancer After Initiation of Targeted Therapies in Patients With Rheumatoid Arthritis and a Prior Cancer: Systematic Review With Meta-Analysis

Arthritis Care & Research.  Vol. 75, No. 2, February 2023, pp 260–271. DOI 10.1002/acr.24784


Objective. To determine the risk of recurrent or new malignancy with exposure to targeted disease-modifying
antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) in adults with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), axial spondyloarthritis (SpA), or psoriatic
arthritis (PsA) and a history of cancer.

Methods. We performed a systematic search of the literature for articles published up to June 2019 that investi-
gated adults with RA, axial SpA, or PsA who had a history of cancer and received biologic or targeted synthetic

DMARDs (bDMARDs or tsDMARDs). We compared the risk of relapse or occurrence of new cancer between patients

with and without bDMARDs. Rate ratios (RRs) with 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) were estimated. The heteroge-
neity of the studies was evaluated by the Cochran Q test and the I2 statistic.

Results. We included 24 observational studies of chronic inflammatory arthritis; of those, 12 were included in the
meta-analysis of RA patients receiving bDMARDs. As compared with RA patients with a history of cancer and
not receiving bDMARDs, for those receiving any bDMARD, the overall RR for risk of neoplasia was 1.09 (95% CI
0.92–1.32; P = 0.31, I2 = 8%); with tumor necrosis factor inhibitors, it was 1.11 (95% CI 0.85–1.46; P = 0.45,
I2 = 48%); and with rituximab, it was 0.79 (95% CI 0.41–1.53; P = 0.49, I2 = 0%). The RR for risk of recurrence for skin
cancer was 1.32 (95% CI 1.02–1.72; P = 0.04, I2 = 0%) and for breast neoplasia 1.21 (95% CI 0.84–1.72; P = 0.31, I2 = 0%).

Conclusion. Apart from skin cancers including melanoma, the risk of recurrent or new cancer is not increased with
the initiation of bDMARDs for RA as compared with no bDMARDs.