Incidence of Neoplasms in Patients Who Develop Sustained Leukopenia During or After Treatment With 6-Mercaptopurine for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

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Abstract

Background & Aims:

Studies to date have not confirmed an association between neoplasms and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) treated with 6-mercaptopurine (6-MP). We have observed the occurrence of some neoplasms in IBD patients who developed sustained leukopenia as a result of treatment with 6-MP. As a result, we sought to compare the incidence of neoplasms in patients who developed sustained leukopenia after taking 6-MP compared with patients treated with 6-MP without sustained leukopenia.

Methods:

A database containing the medical records of more than 600 patients treated with 6-MP for IBD at 1 center between 1965 and 2002 was searched. The patients were divided into 2 groups. The study group consisted of patients who developed sustained leukopenia, defined as a white blood cell count of less than 4000 for 20 or more days. The control group patients matched those in the study group for age and sex. There were 3 matched controls for each patient in the study group.

Results:

Eighteen patients developed sustained leukopenia and, of these, 4 developed neoplasms (22%)—2 leukemias, 1 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and 1 breast cancer. Of the 54 patients in the control group, 4 developed neoplasms (7%)(P= .10). Post hoc analysis revealed a statistically significant difference in the number of hematologic malignancies in the group with sustained leukopenia(P= .014). There was no significant difference between the 2 groups for all confounding variables examined.

Conclusions:

There was a trend toward a greater number of total malignancies in the sustained leukopenic patients. The data suggest that it is those patients who develop sustained leukopenia while taking 6-MP/azathioprine who are most at risk.

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