News Release

Long-term risks of targeted therapies

New data on cancer and cardiovascular risks

Peer-Reviewed Publication

European Alliance of Associations for Rheumatology (EULAR)

Janus kinase inhibitors (JAKi) and biologics are the cornerstone of modern treatment for rheumatoid arthritis (RA). But there have been concerns over long-term side effects. New data from a national healthcare database offer reassuring findings for overall cancers and cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Patients with inflammatory rheumatic diseases have an increased risk of CVD compared to the general population.1 In acknowledgement of this, EULAR – the European Alliance of Associations for Rheumatology – has published recommendations for cardiovascular risk management in patients with a range of rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases, including RA.2,3

At the 2023 EULAR annual congress, Ahn and colleagues present data on the risks of cancer and CVD in people with seropositive RA (SPRA) who had been treated with JAKi or biologics. Information was collected for over 100,000 people who had a case of new-onset SPRA logged between 2010–2020 in the national healthcare database of the Republic of South Korea.

The research then looked for events of overall and site-specific cancers and CVD outcomes, including deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, and composite cardiovascular events.

The results showed that – compared with people who received only conventional synthetic disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (csDMARD) – the incidence rate ratio of overall cancers and CVD in those receiving JAKi or biologics were 0.88 and 0.91, respectively. JAKi did not confer a greater risk of overall CVD or cancer compared with other biologics or csDMARDs. This means overall cancer and CVD incidence were not increased in people with SPRA treated with JAKi/biologics, and were relatively lower than in csDMARD-only patients, underscoring the need for optimal control of disease activity in order to mitigate risks.

However, the authors note that site-specific lung, liver, prostate, and skin cancers were more frequent in people using JAKi/biologics – a finding which requires further investigation. “Overall, this work is reassuring with regards to overall cancers and CVD, but there is a need to keep collecting data in order to support risk management in clinical practice,” says lead author Sung Soo Ahn.

Ahn SS, et al. Cancers and cardiovascular diseases in patients with seropositive rheumatoid arthritis treated with JAK inhibitors and biologics. Presented at EULAR 2023; Abstract OP0132.

1. England BR, Thiele GM, Anderson DR, et al. Increased cardiovascular risk in rheumatoid arthritis: mechanisms and implications. BMJ 2018;361:k1036.

2. Agca R, Heslinga SC, Rollefstad S, et al. EULAR recommendations for cardiovascular disease risk management in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and other forms of inflammatory joint disorders: 2015/2016 update. Ann Rheum Dis 2017;76:17–28.

3. Drosos GC, et al. EULAR recommendations for cardiovascular risk management in rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases, including systemic lupus erythematosus and antiphospholipid syndrome. Ann Rheum Dis 2022;81:768–79.

EULAR is the European umbrella organisation representing scientific societies, health professional associations and organisations for people with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (RMDs). EULAR aims to reduce the impact of RMDs on individuals and society, as well as improve RMD treatments, prevention, and rehabilitation. To this end, EULAR fosters excellence in rheumatology education and research, promotes the translation of research advances into daily care, and advocates for the recognition of the needs of those living with RMDs by EU institutions.

EULAR Communications,

Notes to Editors
EULAR Recommendations
EULAR School of Rheumatology
EULAR Press Releases

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.