Cytokines are small protein mediators involved in essentially all biological processes. As such, abnormalities in cytokines, their receptors, and the signaling pathways that they initiate are involved in a wide variety of diseases. This Review Series discusses the important role of cytokines and their receptors in just a few of these diseases, specifically three chronic inflammatory disease areas and two forms of cancer, highlighting their potential as therapeutic targets.
Cytokines are a large family of more than 100 small proteins that function as short-range mediators involved in essentially all biological processes. They have been found to be important rate-limiting signals, and it is now known that blocking some cytokines, e.g., TNF-α, and cytokine receptors, such as human EGFR 1 (HER1) or HER2, yields effective therapeutics that address unmet needs. This Review Series surveys three chronic inflammatory disease areas and two forms of cancer and discusses the important role of cytokines and their receptors in these disease processes. Their role as potential therapeutic targets is also highlighted.
A large number of cytokines are active in the joints of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). It is now clear that these cytokines play a fundamental role in the processes that cause inflammation, articular destruction, and the comorbidities associated with RA. Following the success of TNF-α blockade as a treatment for RA, other cytokines now offer alternative targets for therapeutic intervention or might be useful as predictive biomarkers of disease. In this Review, we discuss the biologic contribution and therapeutic potential of the major cytokine families to RA pathology, focusing on molecules contained within the TNF-α, IL-1, IL-6, IL-23, and IL-2 families.
Fionula M. Brennan, Iain B. McInnes
Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are very common inflammatory diseases of the airways. They both cause airway narrowing and are increasing in incidence throughout the world, imposing enormous burdens on health care. Cytokines play a key role in orchestrating the chronic inflammation and structural changes of the respiratory tract in both asthma and COPD and have become important targets for the development of new therapeutic strategies in these diseases.
Peter J. Barnes
The three most prevalent human disorders of the CNS in which immunity and inflammation are likely to have vital roles (excluding infection of the CNS) are fever, multiple sclerosis (MS), and Alzheimer disease (AD). As reviewed here, cytokines are critical in the induction of fever, the pathogenesis of MS, and the pathobiology of AD. Indeed, antibodies targeting cytokines have been used as a therapy for individuals with unusual and persistent febrile reactions not responsive to common antipyretics, while a recombinant cytokine is the most popular treatment for the relapsing-remitting form of MS. Although cytokine-modulating therapies are not currently in clinical use for the treatment of AD, cytokines can ameliorate disease pathology in certain experimental models of AD, suggesting a potential for future therapeutic opportunities.
Studies over the past 50 years revealing the molecular events that promote normal T lymphocyte cycle competence and progression led to a detailed understanding of how cytokines function to regulate normal hematopoietic cell proliferation. During that same period, the molecular and genetic changes introduced by the Philadelphia chromosome in chronic myelogenous leukemia were unraveled, and these have led to an understanding of how mutations that constitutively activate normal cytokine signaling pathways can cause unregulated cell proliferation and malignant transformation. Based on the paradigm established by these data, it is inescapable that going forward, investigators will operate under the hypothesis that transformation of additional cells and tissues will have a similar pathogenesis.
Kendall A. Smith, James D. Griffin
The human EGFR (HER) family is essential for communication between many epithelial cancer cell types and the tumor microenvironment. Therapeutics targeting the HER family have demonstrated clinical success in the treatment of diverse epithelial cancers. Here we propose that the success of HER family–targeted monoclonal antibodies in cancer results from their ability to interfere with HER family consolidation of signals initiated by a multitude of other receptor systems. Ligand/receptor systems that initiate these signals include cytokine receptors, chemokine receptors, TLRs, GPCRs, and integrins. We further extrapolate that improvements in cancer therapeutics targeting the HER family are likely to incorporate mechanisms that block or reverse stromal support of malignant progression by isolating the HER family from autocrine and stromal influences.
H. Michael Shepard, Cathleen M. Brdlik, Hans Schreiber