Open Access Commentary

Biologics, cardiovascular effects and cancer

Nemanja Damjanov1*, Michael T Nurmohamed2 and Zoltán Szekanecz3

Author Affiliations

1 Belgrade University School of Medicine, Belgrade, Serbia

2 VU University Medical Center & Jan van Breemen Research Institute, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

3 Department of Rheumatology, Institute of Medicine, University of Debrecen, Faculty of Medicine, Debrecen, Hungary

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Medicine 2014, 12:48  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-12-48

Published: 18 March 2014


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is associated with increased cardiovascular risk. Treatment with tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-inhibitors leads to about a 50% reduction in the first cardiovascular event. TNF-inhibitors could transiently improve flow-mediated vasodilation and improve carotid intima-media thickness (ccIMT) during the treatment of RA. Treatment with TNF-inhibitors is associated with an increased total cholesterol (TC) and HDL-cholesterol (HDLc) level, without sustained change of the atherogenic index. The overall cancer risk in RA patients is comparable to that of the general population, but patients with RA slightly more often have lymphomas and lung tumors, and less often have colorectal and breast tumors in comparison to the general population. In randomized controlled trials (RCT) TNF-inhibitors did not increase the risk of solid malignancies, except for non-melanoma skin cancer (risk doubled compared to control treatment). Meta-analysis of registries and long-term extension studies showed no increased risk for total malignancies as well as for non-melanoma skin cancer when comparing TNF-inhibitors and the classical disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) treatment.

Rheumatoid arthritis; TNF-inhibitors; Cardiovascular risk; Cancer risk; Malignancies