Have you ever heard of the cytokines interleukin-6 (IL-6) or TNF? Normally, these cytokines, excreted by the immune system, may influence autoimmunity or immune responses to foreign invaders. For example, you may have heard about the “cytokine storm” in some patients with COVID-19. In the past, researchers focused on either blocking IL-6 or TNF to stop excessive reactions from occurring. However, researchers from UC Davis Health recently questioned whether blocking both cytokines could be effective in preventing occurrences of graft-versus-host disease (GvHD).
According to Medical XPress, the researchers evaluated prior studies, which saw that blocking only one cytokine was ineffective in preventing GvHD from occurring. In this more recent study, researchers sought to evaluate the safety and efficacy of blocking both TNF and IL-6.
To begin, researchers used obese mice models that had received allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (“Allo-HSCT”). This treatment is allogeneic because it uses donor stem cells. These stem cells are grafted into a patient’s body to treat various blood disorders or cancers. Once grafted, the stem cells usually begin staging an immune reaction towards cancerous cells. In other cases, the transplanted cells may begin attacking healthy tissue. Ultimately, this is what causes GvHD.
Findings from the study show:
- Obesity may lead to worse GvHD than experienced by thinner patients. Researchers believe obesity can worsen cytokine storms and related symptoms.
- Blocking IL-6 and TNF still allowed for effective anti-tumor treatment. It also helped protect against symptom severity, as well as lowered risk of mortality.
Interested in learning more? Take a look at the full study findings published in Blood.
Graft-versus-Host Disease (GvHD)
Graft-versus-host disease (GvHD) may occur following allogeneic stem cell or bone marrow transplantations. GvHD occurs when the transplanted cells view the host’s body as a foreign entity and attack. The condition may be acute or chronic. In the acute form, symptoms typically appear within the first 6 months following transplantation. Alternately, those with chronic GVHD have symptoms appear over 3 months following transplant, with symptoms lasting for up to a lifetime. Symptoms somewhat differ between the two forms. For example, symptoms associated with acute GVHD include:
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Rashes or skin redness
Alternately, symptoms associated with chronic GVHD include:
- Joint pain or stiffness
- Muscle weakness
- Dry eyes or mouth
- Changes in vision
- Unintended weight loss
- Shortness of breath