Inflammatory bowel disease and cancer: The role of inflammation, immunosuppression, and cancer treatment

Axelrad JE1, Lichtiger S1, Yajnik V1. World J Gastroenterol. 2016 May 28;22(20):4794-801. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v22.i20.4794.
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1Jordan E Axelrad, Simon Lichtiger, Department of Medicine, Division of Digestive and Liver Diseases, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY 10032, United States.


In patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), chronic inflammation is a major risk factor for the development of gastrointestinal malignancies. The pathogenesis of colitis-associated cancer is distinct from sporadic colorectal carcinoma and the critical molecular mechanisms underlying this process have yet to be elucidated. Patients with IBD have also been shown to be at increased risk of developing extra-intestinal malignancies. Medical therapies that diminish the mucosal inflammatory response represent the foundation of treatment in IBD, and recent evidence supports their introduction earlier in the disease course. However, therapies that alter the immune system, often used for long durations, may also promote carcinogenesis. As the population of patients with IBD grows older, with longer duration of chronic inflammation and longer exposure to immunosuppression, there is an increasing risk of cancer development. Many of these patients will require cancer treatment, including chemotherapy, radiation, hormonal therapy, and surgery. Many patients will require further treatment for their IBD. This review seeks to explore the characteristics and risks of cancer in patients with IBD, and to evaluate the limited data on patients with IBD and cancer, including management of IBD after a diagnosis of cancer, the effects of cancer treatment on IBD, and the effect of IBD and medications for IBD on cancer outcomes.

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