Monitoring soluble interleukin-2 receptor levels in related and unrelated donor allogeneic bone marrow transplantation
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Acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) is effected by donor T lymphocytes which have been stimulated by host antigens. Activated donor T lymphocytes express interleukin-2 receptor (IL-2R), which is comprised of three subunits (alpha, beta, gamma). During activation, the a IL-2R subunit (CD25) is shed from the receptor complex and can be measured in the circulation. Soluble IL-2Ralpha (sIL-2R) levels are increased in states of immune activation including GVHD, and could theoretically be used as a guide to therapy. Since IL-2Ralpha expression is an early marker of T cell activation, we investigated: (1) if an increase in sIL-2R is specific for acute GVHD; and (2) if serial sIL-2R levels can identify patients with early GVHD, prior to the onset of clinical tissue damage (effector function). Weekly sIL-2R levels were monitored in 36 patients undergoing matched related (n=23) or matched unrelated (n=13) allogeneic bone marrow transplantation (BMT). There was no significant difference in sIL-2R levels between matched related and matched unrelated recipients. Patients with acute GVHD (n=19, 53%) demonstrated higher sIL-2R levels, than those without during weeks 2 and 3 post-BMT (P=0.02 and 0.04, Mann-Whitney U test, two-tailed). In patients with acute GVHD, the rise in sIL-2R preceded the clinical signs of GVHD (16/19 patients). However, patients with sepsis demonstrated a trend towards higher sIL-2R levels at week 1 and significantly greater levels by week 4 (P=0.02). Furthermore, patients with veno-occlusive disease (VOD) (25%) also had significantly higher sIL-2R levels at week 2 (P=0.03). We conclude that although sIL-2R levels increase in patients with acute GVHD, similar increases are seen in patients with VOD and/or sepsis and therefore, as a single biochemical marker, we find that serial measurements of sIL-2R lacks sufficient specificity to guide GVHD therapy.
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