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Nat Rev Rheumatol. 2010 Jun;6(6):339-47. doi: 10.1038/nrrheum.2010.64. Epub 2010 May 4.

Cytokines as therapeutic targets in SLE.

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Department of Medical Sciences, Section of Rheumatology, Uppsala University, Uppsala SE-751 85, Sweden.


Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a heterogeneous autoimmune disease involving most immune cells. Studies in both experimental animal models of lupus and patients with SLE have revealed a number of cytokine pathways that are important in the disease process. Among these are B-cell activating factor, which promotes B-cell survival and autoantibody production, interferon-alpha, which acts as an immune adjuvant, and tumor necrosis factor, which contributes to organ inflammation. This knowledge, in combination with the successful use of anti-TNF treatment in rheumatoid arthritis, has spurred the development of several biologic agents targeting different cytokines or their receptors in SLE. Consequently, many trials of anticytokine therapies for SLE are underway. Although most of these trials are small or in early phases, the results of some large studies have also been reported. In this Review, we discuss the rationale for anticytokine therapies in SLE and review agents currently in use, and those being developed and tested experimentally. We present the results from published trials and discuss the tentative conclusions that can be drawn regarding the efficacy of the new agents. Finally, we provide suggestions for the future of treatment for SLE, including new therapeutic strategies.

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