Objective: To analyze the characteristics of anti-RNA polymerase III antibodies (anti-RNAP3)- positive patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc) in the European League Against Rheumatism Scleroderma Trials and Research group (EUSTAR) registry with a focus on the risk of cancer and the characteristics of malignancies, and the aim to provide guidelines about potential cancer screening in these patients.
Methods: (1) Analysis of the EUSTAR database: 4986 patients with information on their anti-RNAP3 status were included. (2) Case-control study: additional retrospective data, including malignancy history, were queried in 13 participating EUSTAR centers; 158 anti-RNAP3+ cases were compared with 199 local anti-RNAP3- controls, matched for sex, cutaneous subset, disease duration, and age at SSc onset. (3) A Delphi exercise was performed by 82 experts to reach consensus for cancer screening in anti-RNAP3+ patients.
Results: In the EUSTAR registry, anti-RNAP3 were associated in multivariable analysis with renal crisis and diffuse cutaneous involvement. In the case-control study, anti-RNAP3 were associated with gastric antral vascular ectasia, rapid progression of skin involvement, and malignancies concomitant to SSc onset (OR 7.38, 95% CI 1.61-33.8). When compared with other anti-RNAP3+ patients, those with concomitant malignancies had older age (p < 0.001) and more frequent diffuse cutaneous involvement (p = 0.008). The Delphi exercise highlighted the need for malignancy screening at the time of diagnosis for anti-RNAP3+ patients and tight followup in the following years.
Conclusion: Anti-RNAP3+ patients with SSc have a high risk of concomitant malignancy. These results have implications for clinical practice and suggest regular screening for cancer in anti-RNAP3+ patients.
Keywords: AUTOANTIBODIES; NEOPLASMS; SCLERODERMA; SYSTEMIC SCLEROSIS.