Cancer diagnosis in a Spanish cohort of multiple sclerosis patients under dimethylfumarate treatment

Mult Scler Relat Disord. 2021 Apr;49:102747. doi: 10.1016/j.msard.2021.102747. Epub 2021 Jan 11.


Background: Potential increase of cancer incidence is one of the main safety concerns of the disease-modifying therapies employed in Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

Objective: Detailed description of patients who developed cancer among a prospective cohort of Spanish MS patients on dimethyl fumarate (DMF) treatment.

Methods: We describe patients who developed cancer among a cohort of 886 MS patients on DMF treatment (2681 patient-years), with a median time of exposure of 39.5 months (IQR 23-51.5), who participated in a multicentre and prospective real-world study conducted in 16 Spanish National Health System hospitals from February 2014 to May 2019. Local researchers were periodically contacted by the investigation team to monitor safety issues. Cancer histories were collected from the medical records and the information was updated at July 30th 2020.

Results: Eight Caucasian women developed cancer, which accounts for 0.9% and an accumulated malignancy rate of 298.39 cases per 100,000 patient-years of DMF exposure. At the time of cancer diagnosis, age was between 33 to 67 years and median time on DMF treatment 16.5 months (range 1-53). Two patients had familiar history of cancer. No specific cancer lines were found (breast cancer in 2 cases, thyroid in 3, urothelial carcinoma, cervix and a progression to leiomyosarcoma from a mitotically active leiomyoma). DMF was withdrawn during cancer treatment in 6 patients and reintroduced later. All cancers except one are in complete remission. The patient with leiomyosarcoma died by cancer progression.

Conclusion: A relationship between cancers and DMF is unlikely because the malignancy rate was similar to that of the age-and sex-matched general population, and because of the absence of specific tumour cell lines. Nevertheless, as with other immunosuppressive DMTs, clinicians treating MS should be aware of any potential cancer symptom and demand proper testing.

Keywords: Cancer; Dimethyl fumarate; Multiple sclerosis; Safety.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Dimethyl Fumarate / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / adverse effects
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis* / diagnosis
  • Multiple Sclerosis* / drug therapy
  • Multiple Sclerosis* / epidemiology
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting* / diagnosis
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting* / drug therapy
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting* / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms*
  • Prospective Studies


  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Dimethyl Fumarate