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Blood. 2000 Aug 15;96(4):1465-73.

Coadministration of interleukin-18 and interleukin-12 induces a fatal inflammatory response in mice: critical role of natural killer cell interferon-gamma production and STAT-mediated signal transduction.

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Departments of Pathology, Medicine, and Surgery, Arthur G. James Comprehensive Cancer Center, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.


The administration of therapeutic doses of recombinant cytokines to patients with malignant disease can be complicated by systemic toxicities, which in their most severe form may present as a systemic inflammatory response. The combination of interleukin (IL)-18 and IL-12 has synergistic antitumor activity in vivo yet has been associated with significant toxicity. The effects of IL-18 plus IL-12 were examined in a murine model, and it was found that the daily, simultaneous administration of IL-18 and IL-12 resulted in systemic inflammation and 100% mortality within 4 to 8 days depending on the strain employed. Mice treated with IL-18 plus IL-12 exhibited unique pathologic findings as well as elevated serum levels of proinflammatory cytokines and acute-phase reactants. The actions of tumor necrosis factor-alpha did not contribute to the observed toxicity, nor did T or B cells. However, toxicity and death from treatment with IL-18 plus IL-12 could be completely abrogated by elimination of natural killer (NK) cells or macrophages. Subsequent studies in genetically altered mice revealed that NK-cell interferon-gamma mediated the fatal toxicity via the signal transducer and activator of transcription pathway of signal transduction. These data may provide insights into methods of ameliorating cytokine-induced shock in humans. (Blood. 2000;96:1465-1473)

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