Myeloid disorders after autoimmune disease

Best Pract Res Clin Haematol. 2019 Mar;32(1):74-88. doi: 10.1016/j.beha.2019.02.002. Epub 2019 Feb 7.


Autoimmune diseases (ADs) are associated with an increased risk not only of lymphoproliferative disorders but also of myeloid malignancies. The excess risk of myelodysplastic syndromes and/or acute myeloid leukemia is observed across several AD types, including systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disorders, multiple sclerosis, among others. The risk of developing myeloid neoplasms (MNs) is dependent on several variables, including the specific AD type, chronicity and severity of the AD, type and duration of exposure of disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs or cytotoxics/immunosuppressives, and genetic predisposition risk. Putative triggering factors linking AD to elevated MN risk include AD-directed medications, shared genetic susceptibilities between the two disease entities, and chronic immune stimulation or bone marrow infiltration by the AD. Molecular mechanisms underpinning leukemogenesis remain largely speculative and warrant further investigation. Leukemias arising in patients with AD are not always 'therapy-related' in that MNs may develop in certain AD subtypes even among patients with no prior therapy exposure. Only a few studies have attempted to determine factors associated with MN development in AD but failed to demonstrate consistent characteristic clinical or paraclinical features. These reports have failed to demonstrate a clear correlation between individual agent exposure and subsequent leukemia development due to the low rates of therapy exposure compounded by the rarity of MN occurrence. Notwithstanding, the leukemogenic potential is best documented with agents such as azathioprine, cyclophosphamide, and mitoxantrone; this risk of MN development does not appear to be shared by biologic approaches such as anti-tumor necrosis factors-alpha inhibitors. In this article, we discuss plausible biologic mechanisms underlying MN pathogenesis in AD and review the data available on the development of MNs in patients with AD.

Keywords: Autoimmune; Azathioprine; IBD; Leukemia; Myelodysplastic syndromes; Myeloid; RA; SLE.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid* / drug therapy
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid* / genetics
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid* / metabolism
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid* / pathology
  • Cyclophosphamide / adverse effects*
  • Cyclophosphamide / therapeutic use
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / adverse effects*
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute* / chemically induced
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute* / genetics
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute* / metabolism
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute* / pathology
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic* / drug therapy
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic* / genetics
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic* / immunology
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic* / pathology
  • Mitoxantrone / adverse effects*
  • Mitoxantrone / therapeutic use
  • Myelodysplastic Syndromes* / chemically induced
  • Myelodysplastic Syndromes* / genetics
  • Myelodysplastic Syndromes* / metabolism
  • Myelodysplastic Syndromes* / pathology
  • Neoplasms, Second Primary* / genetics
  • Neoplasms, Second Primary* / metabolism
  • Neoplasms, Second Primary* / pathology


  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Cyclophosphamide
  • Mitoxantrone