According to an article from Righting Injustice, a recent study suggests that TNF inhibitors may increase the risk of rare cancers in pediatric patients. The study recommends that children that have been treated with the should receive regular cancer screening, especially for unusual and rare types.
TNF stands for tumor necrosis factor, and TNF inhibitors are a class of drugs that have widely found use in treating inflammatory illnesses such as psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatric arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and juvenile arthritis. TNF inhibitors can play a decisive role in stopping both disease progression and inflammation, and functions by altering the immune system response.
This is not the first time that TNF inhibitors have been implicated in causing significant health problems and side effects. In that past, the FDA has reviewed multiple reports of teens and young adults contracting a rare blood cancer called hepatosplenic T-cell lymphoma. Since this class of drug interacts with the immune system, the body also becomes more vulnerable to both opportunistic and fungal infections. Nevertheless, the new study is demonstrating that child patients may also become more susceptible to other rare cancers aside from lymphoma.
Six pediatric patients that had received treatment with either etanercept or infliximab (both TNF inhibitors) had developed rare solid tumor cancers. For example, one patient had renal clear cell carcinoma and another had developed Epstein-Barr virus-positive nasopharyngeal carcinoma, a cancer of the head and neck. Neither of these cancers are very common in general, and even less so in children.
The FDA first began receiving reports of childhood cancer associate with TNF inhibitors back in 2010. In fact, the agency had been sent 48 individual reports of such occurrences. In a response to the reports, the FDA said that the establishment of a blatant causative relation was not yet possible, particularly because the underlying disease in these reports was varied. This new data provides new legitimacy to the earlier reports.
While the risk appears to be real, it is worth mentioning that TNF inhibitors are still mostly safe; after all, in a total of 357 child patients surveyed, the rate of cancer was still just 1.68 percent.