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Leuk Res. 2005 Dec;29(12):1459-63. Epub 2005 Jun 17.

Evidence of a mechanism by which etanercept increased TNF-alpha in multiple myeloma: new insights into the biology of TNF-alpha giving new treatment opportunities--the role of bupropion.

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  • 1University of Vermont, School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, Burlington, VT 05401, USA.


Etanercept is a commercially available pharmaceutical protein approved for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, RA. Given subcutaneously, etanercept binds and inactivates soluble tumor necrosis factor-alpha, TNF. Etanercept has a good safety record and is of benefit in lowering pain, inflammation, and joint destruction in RA. RA is mediated by many factors, TNF among them. Malignant myeloma, MM, is a malignant clonal expansion of a post-germinal center B lymphocyte. Since TNF is a necessary growth factor for expansion and maintenance of MM cells, and etanercept binds soluble TNF and is of clinical benefit in RA, etanercept was tried experimentally in MM. Contrary to expectations, etanercept resulted in increased levels of TNF and possibly shortened survival. This paper presents an hypothesis of how this happened. There are two cognate receptors for TNF, termed R1 and R2 and two forms of TNF, soluble and transmembrane. Soluble TNF has greater affinity for TNF-R1 than for TNF-R2. Transmembrane TNF has equal affinity for the two receptors. Since TNF-R2 signaling tends to be more anti-apoptotic and activating of nuclear factor kappa B, NFkB, than is TNF-R1, and TNF-R1 tends to be more pro-apoptotic than is TNF-R2, by inactivating soluble TNF while leaving transmembrane TNF signaling relatively unchanged, etanercept changed the balance in TNF signaling from TNF-R1 towards TNF-R2 weighting. Anti-apoptosis and TNF synthesis would have been up-regulated by that shift. Early data indicates that the common generic antidepressant bupropion may ameliorate Crohn's disease course by down regulating TNF synthesis, maybe it will slow the course of MM as well.

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