There’s a great article in the new issue of Cure magazine, “The Internal Flame” about the connection between chronic inflammation and cancer. I attended several scientific presentations about the inflammation-cancer connection at the AACR annual meeting this year. Long term inflammation from chronic infections, such as hepatitic C, are associated with the development of cancer. Some autoimmune diseases are also associated with an increase cancer risk. It has been discovered that cancer in essence hijacks our immune system processes to promote it’s own growth and metastasis…what our body means for our good, cancer uses to proliferate it’s own growth and destructive processes.

I have an autoimumne disease also, rheumatoid arthritis. Kind of interesting, cancer in the end caused my RA to worsen, as I had my ovaries removed in my cytoreduction surgery. The early menopause initiated by the removal of my ovaries caused my RA to escalate, which in turn caused me to become dependent on more immune/inflammation suppressing drugs to control that disease.

I also take a chemotherapy drug weekly, methotrexate, to control my RA. Interesting how the use of that drug came to treat autoimmune diseases. Woman who had RA and cancer and who were treated with methotrexate for cancer went into remission of their RA while they received it. They experimented with dosages until they found the lowest possible effective dosage of the chemotherapy for inducing remission in RA and other autoimmune diseases. They know it works, but not why. More chemotherapies are being tested for use in autoimmune disease. It is so interesting that drugs that suppress cancer also suppress inflammatory autoimmune disease while at the same time inflammation is being associated with cancer occurrence. I am also on several drugs to suppress my immune system and inflammatory responses, including low dose steroids.

Interesting too, that a protein our body creates and that can destroy some types of cancer cells, TNF (tumor necrosis factor), also plays a part in the destructive inflammation of RA and other autoimmune diseases. It was suggested once that I take new drugs that block the effect of tumor necrosis factor. I felt that if I had an over-abundance of this protein, in light of my cancer history, I didn’t want to “block” it. I’m waiting to see long term studies about the cancer incidence in those taking these new drugs. I don’t believe patients with a cancer history were included in initial clinical trials of these drugs.

At first, after I was diagnosed with cancer, I was afraid of suppressing my immune system with the RA drugs…don’t we all want a good immune system and hope our immune system will prevent our cancers form recurring? I was so afraid suppressing my immune system would make me vulnerable to a cancer recurrence.

Now after reading a lot about the cancer-inflammation connection, I wonder if all of these drugs that suppress my inflammatory responses and immune system might in the end help protect me from cancer? But then again I wonder if my malfunctioning immune system and chronic inflammatory disease had anything to do with my cancer occurring in the first place. It’s a mystery.

I don’t know, but I continue to take my drugs as they keep me in remission from RA, and I haven’t had a cancer recurrence in 8 years, so the drugs certainly do not seem to be hurting me in that regard.

But it makes me especially intrigued by the new connections between cancer and inflammation…I’m watching that research closely.