Cancer, psoriatic arthritis, and anti-TNF drugs (Enbrel, Humira, Remicade, etc)

Question

I was diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthiritis Dec of 08 have been on methoraxate my crp levels started to go down but all of a sudden went back up. My doctor has started me on Humira. My concern is that I had cancer 12 years ago will the Humira cause a reoccurance. My doctor says we will monitor it very closly.

Answer

HI Virgil,

Several hundreds of thousand of patients with various inflammatory types of arthritis have not taken one or more of the anti-TNF drugs (humira, enbrel, remicade).  We feel fairly certain based on all of these data that these drugs do not increase the risk of most tumors like breast, colon, prostate, stomach, kidney.  However, there is a lingering concern that they could increase the risk for lymph node cancers (lymphomas) but this is debatable because at least one type of inflammatory arthritis (rheumatoid arthritis) itself causes increased risk of lymphoma.  So, it might be the disease not the drug.  There have also been reports that these agents could possibly increase risk for skin cancers, but this isn’t definitive yet either.  Each patient has to weigh the potential destructiveness of the arthritis against the relatively small chance that the drug might increase risk of a cancer.

Joan Bathon, M.D.

About Joan Bathon, M.D.

Dr. Bathon was a Co-Deputy Director of the Division of Rheumatology at Hopkins Bayview. She was also the founder and director of the Hopkins Arthritis Center.