Malaria drugs cut cancer risk in lupus patients
NEW YORK |
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Drugs used to treat malaria appear to reduce the risk of malignancy in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus, Spanish researchers report in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.
"Antimalarials have consistently shown to improve survival in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus," lead investigator Dr. G. Ruiz-Irastorza told Reuters Health. It is possible that these drugs are involved in some type of protective effect against cancer that may help explain this observation.
Lupus can occur in several forms, but systemic lupus erythematosus -- usually referred to simply as lupus -- is the most serious type. It is an incurable disease marked by inflammation and damage to tissue and organs throughout the body, including the joints, skin, heart, kidney and central nervous system. Lupus is an autoimmune disorder, meaning the immune system mistakenly attacks the body's own tissue
Ruiz-Irastorza of the University of the Basque Country, Bizkaia, and colleagues came to this conclusion after completing a study of 235 systemic lupus erythematosus patients who were assessed on average every 3 months. Sixty-six percent (156 patients) had been treated with malaria drugs at some point.
After an average follow-up time of 10 years, only 1.3 percent (two patients) who received malaria drugs developed cancer, compared with 13 percent (11 patients) who had not been treated with these drugs. The researchers estimated that patients who received malaria drugs were 85 percent less likely to develop cancer compared with non-users.
The researchers call for further studies. However, unless patients have a reason they should not receive these drugs, Ruiz-Irastorza suggests that malaria drugs should be included in the treatment of every patient with systemic lupus erythematosus, regardless of their disease severity.
SOURCE: Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, June 2007.
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