Recent research refutes previous suggestions linking a protein used to facilitate fusion formation in patients who have spinal surgery to some forms of cancer. A comprehensive study of a statewide cancer database shows no correlation between the bone-promoting protein rhBMP and the risk of developing cancer for patients undergoing spine surgery involving a fusion.
No Significant Cancer Death Patterns
Data on nearly 20,000 patients who underwent fusion surgery for degenerative spine disease was evaluated for the study. A statewide cancer registry was used to compare cancer rates among patients who had surgery with the bone-growth protein and those who had surgery without it. No noticeable patterns or higher cancer rates were found based on patient follow-ups.
Inconsistencies in Previous Studies
Researchers noted inconsistencies with previous studies that suggested a cancer link involving rhBMP, which has been widely used in spine fusion surgeries for more than a decade. Prior studies involved smaller numbers of patients and shorter follow-up periods, which may account for the results. It’s also believed subsequent patient cancers weren’t taken into account.
Need for Long-Term Follow-Up
Other studies involving large groups of patients have not supported earlier research suggesting a cancer link. Researchers stress the need for lengthier patient follow-ups to increase the reliability of future results to determine the long-term safety of rhBMP.
Bone Graft Options
The bone graft done at the time of surgery does not result in a fusion. The graft acts as a foundation for new bone to grow to bridge the gap left by the removed disc. Hardware such as screws and rods is used to stabilize the spine until bone growth occurs. One or more of the following graft materials may be used during fusion surgery:
- Cadaver bones
- Bone graft substitutes
- Bone growth proteins like rhBMP
There are spine surgeries where no fusion is necessary since the damaged disc is replaced with an artificial one. Although when spinal stability is compromised, a fusion may be required even with newer techniques and procedures. The purpose of proteins like rhBMP is to increase the odds that a fusion will form between the adjacent bones of the spine.
Learn more about spine surgery from the experienced spine specialists at The Spine Institute. Our team of trusted diagnosticians and board-certified spine surgeons in Los Angeles can determine the cause of your pain and review both conservative measures as well as surgical options for relief. Call the office today at (310) 828-7757.