CCFA Conference Notes 2016 (part 3) -Malignancy and IBD

This blog entry has abbreviated/summarized this terrific presentation; most of the material has been covered in this blog in prior entries but still this was a useful review. Though not intentional, some important material is likely to have been omitted; in addition, transcription errors are possible as well.

3rd Lecture: Prevention and management of malignancy in IBD –Dr. Thomas Ullman

Malignancy risk (colorectal cancer [CRC]) is present with prolonged ulcerative colitis, though more recent studies have shown lower risk than in the past –not much higher than the general population.

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  • CRC surveillance–colonoscopy monitoring after 8-10 years. Typically colonoscopy every other year for most patients, every year in higher risk patients (eg. PSC).

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  • Unclear if chemoprevention is effective (5-ASA, thiopurines, others).
  • Chromoendoscopy “has not been consensus on its use in our field (yet).” It is time consuming and expensive and unclear if it will improve outcome.

Does medical therapy for IBD predispose to developing cancer?

  • Thiopurines increase the risk of malignancy. (Pasternak et al) though the risk returns to near baseline when stopped according to study below.

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  • No overall increased risk with anti-TNF agents with RCTs (may not follow patients long enough) but also not seen in Danish registry either (JAMA study)
With Anti-TNFs

No increased risk of malignancy in this study with Anti-TNFs

  • Lymphoma risks: age, immunodeficiency, EBV
  • EBV negative are at risk for HLH with thiopurines
  • HTSCL ~200, >90% men and >90% <35 years. NOT EBV-related. Has not been identified in anti-TNF monotherapy.

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  • Skin cancer –main concern is in non-melanoma skin cancer (possibly melanoma too). Skin cancer increase has not been noted with methotrexate. Prevention: Skin care, and annual dermatology visits.
  • Cervical cancer—likely increased risk in IBD, probably due to thiopurine exposure and reduced immune surveillance. Prevention: HPV vaccination, Pap testing.
  • Urinary Tract cancers –especially in those >65 years with thiopurine exposure


IBD ‘Pearls’

clinical pearl is “a short, straightforward piece of clinical advice.” Here are a few:

2015 DDW abstract –#536 DR Hoekman et al “Non-trough IFX concentrations reliably predict trough levels and accelerate dose-adjustment in Crohn’s disease.”  This abstract examined data from 20 CD patients.  The authors noted that infliximab concentrations of 15 mcg/mL or higher at week 4 and 7.5 mcg/mL or higher at week 6 appeared to predict trough concentrations of 3 mcg/mL or higher at week 8.

U Kopylov et al. Inflamm Bowel Dis 2015; 21: 1847-53.  This nested case control study identified 19,582 eligible patients.  Key findings:

  • Treatment with thiopurines for more than 5 years did not increase the risk of lymphoma, melanoma or colorectal cancer.
  • There was an association between thiopurine use and nonmelanoma skin cancer (OR 1.78).
  • No association was found between the risk of the evaluated malignancies and anti-TNFα medications

K Huth et al. Inflamm Bowel Dis 2015; 21: 1761-68. This prospective cohort study completed over 2 successive influenza seasons showed that offering education and access to vaccination improved rates of vaccination from 47% (2011-12) to 75% (2013-14).  The education module is available:

KH Katsanos et al. “Review article: non-malignant oral manifestations in inflammatory bowel disease” Aliment Pharmacol There 2015; 42: 40-60. (Thanks to Ben Gold for this reference). This review article provides extensive information about oral lesions in IBD, differential diagnosis, numerous pictures, and management recommendations.  Some oral lesions are directly related to IBD, others can be induced by vitamin deficiencies or by medications.

One of my pet peeves -I avoid using straws

One of my pet peeves -I avoid using straws.  I heard this statistic several years ago and also see too many littered straws.

Disclaimer: These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications/diets (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician/nutritionist.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition.

Monotherapy or Combination Therapy with Adalimumab?

Since the introduction of anti-tumor necrosis factor therapies (anti-TNFs), the benefit of using these agents in combination with immunomodulators or as monotherapy has shifted a few times based on the latest studies.  The most influential recent studies had been SONIC and UC Success which indicated that combination therapy for Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis, respectively, was more effective and without more adverse effects than monotherapy. A recent study may create some additional uncertainty in this line of thought (Gastroenterol 2014; 146: 941-49).

The author performed a pooled analysis of data from 1594 patients with Crohn’s disease (CD).  Studies included CLASSIC I and II, CHARM, GAIN, EXTEND, and ADHERE.  In total, these studies provided 3050 patient-years of exposure. For individual patients, the median followup period was 1.5 years.

Key findings:

  • “Those patients receiving combination therapy had an increased risk of malignancy (other than non melanoma skin cancer [NMSC])” with a relative risk of 2.82.
  • Adalimumab monotherapy was not associated with an increased risk of malignancy other than NMSC
  • Combination therapy was associated with relative risk of NMSC of 3.46

In the discussion, the authors state “the data suggest that the increased risk likely is attributed to the immunomodulator therapy.”

A related editorial (884-86) helps dissect the articles strengths/limitations as well as implications.


  • the study captured data from randomized controlled trials.


  • median followup of 1.5 years –may not be long enough to detect a malignancy signal from anti-TNF therapy
  • unclear how many adalimumab monotherapy patients had been on a thiopurine previously


  • “Even if Osterman et al are correct, is this information clinically meaningful enough to swing the mono-combo pendulum back to mono therapy?”
  • “The clinical relevance of the increase in absolute cancer risk from 4 in 1000 with adalimumab monotherapy to 10 in 1000 with combination therapy for cancers other than NMSC is unclear”
  • This difference of 6 in 1000 “translates to 167 patients who are treated before seeing 1 excess cancer”
  • “Most (if not all) of the cancer risk is associated with thiopurine exposure…induction therapy is more effective with combination treatment–>”we propose that we should induce patients into remission with combination therapy, and then consider withdrawing thiopurines at some point.
  • “Consider treating younger males with thiopurines short term, or alternatively with methotrexate.”  Though the authors note that data from rheumatology brings some concern to methotrexate cancer risk (Semin Arthritis Rheum 2014; 43: 489-97). Source Article: Methotrexate Safety | gutsandgrowth
  • “Consider treating elderly patients with anti-TNF monotherapy to decrease their risk of serious infections”

Also noted: “Risk of Cancer in Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Diseases: A Nationwide Population-based Cohort Study with 30 Years of Follow-up Evaluation” (Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2014; 13: 265-73). n=13,756 patients with CD and 35,152 with UC. Key findings –among CD patients, the excess risk was largely due to extra-intestinal cancers such as hematological malignancies (SIR 1.9) and smoking-related malignancies (SIR 1.5).  Associations between UC and gastrointestinal/extraintestinal cancers were weaker (both SIRs were 1.1); the risk of gastrointestinal cancers decreased over the course of the study.

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