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Study suggests link between scleroderma, cancer in certain patients
Date:7/8/2010

Patients with a certain type of scleroderma may get cancer and scleroderma simultaneously, Johns Hopkins researchers have found, suggesting that in some diseases, autoimmunity and cancer may be linked.

These findings could lead researchers closer to discovering what causes scleroderma, an incurable autoimmune disease that causes scar tissue to develop in the skin and in major organ systems, and to pinning down why some with scleroderma appear to be at increased risk of cancer. The insights add to the growing body of evidence linking some autoimmune disorders with cancer.

"Our research adds more to the discussion about whether cancer and autoimmune diseases are related and whether cancer may be a trigger for scleroderma," says Ami A. Shah, M.D., M.H.S., an assistant professor of medicine in the division of rheumatology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the study's lead author.

The small study, which appears online in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism, looked at blood and tumor samples from 23 patients with both scleroderma and cancer who were treated at the Johns Hopkins Scleroderma Center. Ten percent of the patients treated at the scleroderma center have cancer as well as the autoimmune disease.

The researchers looked for specific immune markers in each patient, determining which type of antibodies the patients made. Those with antibodies called anti-RNA polymerase I/III had the most closely related onset of cancer and scleroderma, they found. Those patients got both diseases within two years of one another. Similar results were also found in another subset of patients those who tested positive for none of the known autoimmune antibodies. Researchers suspect there are immune markers in their blood that have yet to be discovered.

The reasons for the apparent link between scleroderma and cancer are not understood, Shah says. And it is unknown whether cancer could be causing scleroderma or
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Contact: Stephanie Desmon
sdesmon1@jhmi.edu
410-955-8665
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Source:Eurekalert

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