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Identification of Drug-Cancer Associations: A Nationwide Screening Study

The main tool in drug safety monitoring, spontaneous reporting of adverse effects, is unlikely to detect delayed adverse drug effects including cancer. Hypothesis-free screening studies based on administrative data could improve ongoing drug safety monitoring. Using Danish health registries, we conducted a series of case-control studies by identifying individuals with incident cancer in Denmark from 2001 to 2018, matching each case with 10 population controls on age, sex, and calendar time. ORs were estimated using conditional logistic regression accounting for matching factors, educational level, and selected comorbidities. A total of 13,577 drug-cancer associations were examined for individual drugs and 8,996 for drug classes. We reviewed 274 drug-cancer pairs where an association with high use and a cumulative dose-response pattern was present. We classified 65 associations as not readily attributable to bias of which 20 were established as carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the remaining 45 associations may warrant further study. The screening program identified drugs with known carcinogenic effects and highlighted a number of drugs that were not established as carcinogens and warrant further study. The effect estimates in this study should be interpreted cautiously and will need confirmation targeted epidemiologic and translational studies. This study provides a screening tool for drug carcinogenicity aimed at hypothesis generation and explorative purposes. As such, the study may help to identify drugs with unknown carcinogenic effects and, ultimately, improve drug safety as part of the ongoing safety monitoring of drugs.

Authors: Kristensen, Kasper Bruun; Friis, Søren; Lund, Lars Christian; Hallas, Jesper; Cardwell, Chris R; Andreassen, Bettina K; Habel, Laurel A; Pottegård, Anton

Cancer Res Commun. 2022 Jun;2(6):552-560. Epub 2022-06-29.

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