Eight pillars of oncorheumatology: Crossroads between malignancies and musculoskeletal diseases

Autoimmun Rev. 2020 Nov;19(11):102658. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2020.102658. Epub 2020 Sep 14.


RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MALIGNANCIES AND MUSCULOSKELETAL DISEASES: Oncorheumatology is the meeting point of tumor formation and rheumatic musculoskeletal diseases (RMD). Multiple interactions exist between these two medical specialties. One major field is the topic of malignancies associated with rheumatic diseases, while the other topic covers the development of musculoskeletal disease in cancer patients. Within the first group, secondary malignancies may be associated with rheumatic diseases. Mostly sustained inflammation is responsible for transition into cancer. Tumor-associated antigens (TAA) with adhesive properties are present on tumor cells. These molecules may also be expressed by inflammatory leukocytes and soluble TAA levels may be elevated in RMDs. There has been continuous debate with respect to the possible carcinogenicity of conventional and targeted antirheumatic drugs. Very recent data from registries suggest that neither biologics, nor JAK inhibitors increase cancer risk in arthritis patients. The issue of physiotherapy in rheumatic patients with recent or current cancer has also been controversial. Some modalities, primarily exercise, may be safely applied to patients with RMD and cancer. The second large topic includes paraneoplastic syndromes. Musculoskeletal paraneoplasias are triggered by tumor-derived mediators. These syndromes are sometimes slightly different from the classical RMDs. Various chemotherapies may also be associated with autoimmune side effects. Recently, these immune-related complications have also been observed in cancer patients treated with immune-checkpoint inhibitors. Sex hormone-deprivation therapies, such as aromatase inhibitors and anti-androgens are widely used for the treatment of breast and prostate cancer, respectively. These compounds may induce bone loss and lead to osteoporosis. Finally, primary and secondary malignancies of the musculoskeletal system may also interest rheumatologists. In this review, the clinical, practical aspects of these eight pillars of oncorheumatology will be discussed.

Keywords: Carcinogenicity; Immune-checkpoint inhibition; Musculoskeletal diseases; Oncorheumatology; Sarcomas; Secondary tumor development; Targeted therapy; Tumors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Antirheumatic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases* / complications
  • Neoplasms* / complications
  • Paraneoplastic Syndromes* / complications
  • Rheumatic Diseases* / complications


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Antirheumatic Agents