Malignancies in Patients with Anti-RNA Polymerase III Antibodies and Systemic Sclerosis: Analysis of the EULAR Scleroderma Trials and Research Cohort and Possible Recommendations for Screening

J Rheumatol. 2017 May;44(5):639-647. doi: 10.3899/jrheum.160817. Epub 2017 Jan 15.


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.


MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autoantibodies / blood*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / blood
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • RNA Polymerase III / immunology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Scleroderma, Systemic / blood
  • Scleroderma, Systemic / complications*
  • Scleroderma, Systemic / immunology


  • Autoantibodies
  • RNA Polymerase III