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Papers of the Week

2022 Aug

Brain Behav Immun Health


The effect of tocilizumab on patient reported outcomes and inflammatory biomarkers in hematopoietic cell transplantation.


Taylor MR, Hillard CJ, Drobyski WR, Szabo A, Johnson BD, Zhu F, Raison CL, Cole SW, Knight JM
Brain Behav Immun Health. 2022 Aug; 23:100480.
PMID: 35757656.


Inflammatory physiology has been linked to behavioral and emotional symptoms in a variety of contexts and experimental paradigms. Hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) represents an intersection of significant immune dysregulation and psychosocial stress, and this biobehavioral relationship can influence important clinical outcomes. For those undergoing HCT with inflammation-related neuropsychiatric symptoms, using targeted agents such as the IL-6 receptor antagonist tocilizumab may be an effective therapeutic approach. We conducted an observational cohort study to explore patient reported outcomes (PROs) and inflammatory biomarkers among allogeneic HCT recipients who received tocilizumab compared to those who did not. Individuals on a larger trial of tocilizumab for prevention of graft-versus-host disease received a single dose of tocilizumab 24 h prior to stem cell infusion. Measures of anxiety, depression, pain, fatigue, and sleep quality and parallel blood samples for inflammatory cytokines were collected from participants and an analogous comparison cohort at baseline and Day 28 after stem cell infusion. Demographic and medical characteristics were reported; an analysis of covariance regression model was fitted to evaluate differences in PROs and distance correlation t-tests assessed for associations between biomarkers and PRO measures. For n = 18 tocilizumab-treated and n = 22 comparison patients, there were no significant differences between patient demographics, but the tocilizumab cohort had a different distribution of primary diagnoses (p = 0.009) with more patients with leukemias and a higher proportion of patients in their first remission (64% vs 28%, p = 0.024). Depression was higher at Day 28 compared to baseline in both groups (comparison group: +5.1 [95% CI 0.14-10, p = 0.045], tocilizumab: +8.6 [95% CI 2.3-15, p = 0.011]), though the difference between groups did not reach statistical significance. The tocilizumab group had significantly increased circulating IL-6 and decreased CRP at Day 28 (all p < 0.05). There was an association between collective baseline biomarkers and PROs (distance correlation dCor = 0.110, p = 0.005), but this same association was not present at Day 28 (dCor = -0.001, p = 0.5). In univariate analyses, a 10-fold increase in plasma IL-6 was associated with a 3.6-point higher depression score (95% CI 1.0-6.2, p = 0.008). In this exploratory analysis of PROs and inflammatory biomarkers in patients undergoing HCT, tocilizumab was not associated with favorable patient-reported symptom profiles. This finding is aligned with our prior work in the HCT population but diverges from hypothesized therapeutic effects of tocilizumab on depressive symptoms, thus highlighting the need for larger prospective translational studies in biobehavioral HCT research.