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Polymyositis, dermatomyositis and malignancy: a further intriguing link.

The association between malignancy and autoimmune myositis has been largely described and confirmed by numerous epidemiological studies. The temporal relationship between the two pathologic conditions can vary: malignancy may occur before, at the same time or following the diagnosis of myositis. Beside these observations, the molecular mechanisms underlying this association are still unknown, even though it has been demonstrated a possible antigenic similarity between regenerating myoblasts and some cancer cell populations. To better identify peculiar histopathologic features common to cancer and myositis, we screened muscle biopsies from patients affected with polymyositis, dermatomyositis, myositis in association to cancer, and from patients affected with newly diagnosed cancer, but without myositis. Similarly to the histopatologic features that were observed in the muscle from myositis patients, especially in those with cancer associated myositis, in patients affected with malignancy at the clinical onset of disease we observed early sign of myopathy, characterized by internally nucleated and regenerating myofibers, most of them expressing the neural cell adhesion molecule. The hypothesis that in a particular subset of individuals genetically predisposed to autoimmunity, an initial subclinical tumor-induced myopathy may result in an autoimmune myositis, represents a further intriguing link behind the association of these two conditions.

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