Response to Treatment with TNFα Inhibitors in Rheumatoid Arthritis Is Associated with High Levels of GM-CSF and GM-CSF+ T Lymphocytes.
Bystrom J., Clanchy FI., Taher TE., Al-Bogami MM., Muhammad HA., Alzabin S., Mangat P., Jawad AS., Williams RO., Mageed RA.
Biologic TNFα inhibitors are a mainstay treatment option for patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) refractory to other treatment options. However, many patients either do not respond or relapse after initially responding to these agents. This study was carried out to identify biomarkers that can distinguish responder from non-responder patients before the initiation of treatment. The level of cytokines in plasma and those produced by ex vivo T cells, B cells and monocytes in 97 RA patients treated with biologic TNFα inhibitors was measured before treatment and after 1 and 3 months of treatment by multiplex analyses. The frequency of T cell subsets and intracellular cytokines were determined by flow cytometry. The results reveal that pre-treatment, T cells from patients who went on to respond to treatment with biologic anti-TNFα agents produced significantly more GM-CSF than non-responder patients. Furthermore, immune cells from responder patients produced higher levels of IL-1β, TNFα and IL-6. Cytokine profiling in the blood of patients confirmed the association between high levels of GM-CSF and responsiveness to biologic anti-TNFα agents. Thus, high blood levels of GM-CSF pre-treatment had a positive predictive value of 87.5% (61.6 to 98.5% at 95% CI) in treated RA patients. The study also shows that cells from most anti-TNFα responder patients in the current cohort produced higher levels of GM-CSF and TNFα pre-treatment than non-responder patients. Findings from the current study and our previous observations that non-responsiveness to anti-TNFα is associated with high IL-17 levels suggest that the disease in responder and non-responder RA patients is likely to be driven/sustained by different inflammatory pathways. The use of biomarker signatures of distinct pro-inflammatory pathways could lead to evidence-based prescription of the most appropriate biological therapies for different RA patients.