Cyclosporine Side Effects Linked to Risk of Cancer After Liver Transplant

A study by Dutch researchers seems to indicate that the organ transplant drug Cyclosporine may increase the risk of cancer among liver transplant recipients. 

The findings were published in this month’s issue of the medical journal Liver Transplantation, looking at the rate of new cancer malignancies that occur after patients receive new livers. Researchers say the data they collected indicates that cyclosporine cancer risk is dose-specific, meaning that the more of the medication a patient receives, the higher the risk of cancer.

Cyclosporine is an immunosuppressant that helps prevent the body from rejecting transplanted organs by weakening the immune system. It was approved for use by the FDA in 1983 and was originally developed by Sandoz, now known as Novartis, under the brand name Sandimmune.

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In the latest study, researchers performed a retrospective analysis on 385 liver transplant patients between 1986 and 2007. They discovered that 50 of those patients, or 13%, developed a de novo (new) cancer after the transplants. When they looked at the therapies the patients had received, researchers determined that the key risk factor appeared to by the use of cyclosporine.

Researchers also found that the cancer risk was highest in patients who received transplants in recent years, and among those under 50 years of age. They determined that the increase was associated with a change in cyclosporine treatment that increased the amount of the drug they were receiving.

The cancers that followed in the wake of cyclosporine treatments were also more aggressive when compared to patients taking other transplant treatments who developed cancer, researchers said.


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