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Agents Actions. 1991 Jan;32(1-2):10-21.

Leflunomide (HWA 486), a novel immunomodulating compound for the treatment of autoimmune disorders and reactions leading to transplantation rejection.

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  • 1Pharmacological Research, Hoechst AG Werk Albert, Wiesbaden, FRG.


Leflunomide has been shown to be very effective in preventing and curing several autoimmune animal diseases. Further, this agent is as effective as cyclosporin A in preventing the rejection of skin and kidney transplants in rats. Preliminary results from patients suffering from severe cases of rheumatoid arthritis demonstrated that clinical and immunological parameters could be improved with leflunomide therapy. Mode of action studies revealed that this substance antagonizes the proliferation inducing activity of several cytokines and is cytostatic for certain cell types. In this light, we could show that tyrosine phosphorylation of the RR-SRC peptide substrate and the autophosphorylation of the epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptor were, dose dependently, inhibited by leflunomide. EGF activates the intrinsic tyrosine kinase of its receptor, which stimulates the phosphorylation of a variety of peptides, the amino acid residue in all cases is tyrosine. These results indicate that much of leflunomide's activity could be due to the inhibition of tyrosine-kinase(s), which is an important general mechanism for the proliferation of various cell types. Thus, leflunomide, which is effective against autoimmune diseases and reactions leading to graft rejection, would seem to have a mode of action separating it from known immunosuppressive drugs.

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