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Cytokine and anti-cytokine therapies

Since the discovery of cytokines as key mediators in inflammation, targeting the cytokine network has represented a promising therapeutic approach. Psoriasis and atopic dermatitis, as T cell-mediated diseases with a strong cytokine component and a high unmet medical need, have moved into the focus of experimental therapies. Whereas pro-inflammatory cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha are overexpressed in both diseases, a type 1 cytokine pattern predominates in psoriasis and a type 2 cytokine pattern is of pathophysiological importance at least in the initial stages of atopic dermatitis. Strategies for intervention into the cytokine network have included antagonism of pro-inflammatory cytokines (e.g. TNFalpha, interleukin [IL]-1, IL-8, IL-12, IL-18, IL-23) with neutralizing antibodies and soluble receptors, application of recombinant cytokines (e.g. IL-4, IL-10, IL-11, interferon [IFN]-gamma) to shift the cytokine balance, and administration of small molecules to modulate cytokine expression or signaling. Results from the clinic have led to novel therapeutic options as well as a better understanding of the pathophysiology of inflammatory skin diseases. This review highlights the various therapeutic strategies, results from the clinic (that are in some cases preliminary), and insights that can be drawn from the more advanced clinical studies and the use of approved cytokine-directed therapies.

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